I have always been open to the idea of humor and wit in poetry. Many poets and poetry lovers take everything entirely too seriously. They don't seem to realize that one can be an artist without forgetting how to laugh. This lesson didn't get lost on poet Hal Sirowitz. This New York poet has been writing poetry for many years and has several volumes of poetry published. He is also noted for his fine poetry readings. Some people may have seen him on MTV or PBS.


His most recent volume of poetry is Before, During, After. This is a book with his reflections on sex. The title becomes instantly understood once you know the poems are about sex and sexual relations. Those expecting a serious probe or an erotic thriller will be in for a letdown. There is never any intention of being taken too seriously here. Sirowitz has a deadpan delivery with his short poems. He gets straight to the point. He could've been a highly successful stand up comic but he chose poetry instead.


 I picked up this volume at a recent poetry reading at Robin's Bookstore in Philly. That was nice because I got to hear Sirowitz read numerous poems from this collection. As I read through the poems I could distinctly hear his voice reading the poems. This is a funny guy with an interesting way of looking at the world. I was also recalling his phasing and inflection in the poems. It's a shame that a reader can't get the voice because it this case, it makes a huge difference.


 A volume of poetry on sex has the potential to be extremely funny. Many of the poems in this collection are laugh out loud funny. Sirowitz exhibits some classic Jewish humor throughout this collection. Jackie Mason would be proud. He also displays keen insight into the way people view each other and play each other in their lives.


 A good example of this is Collecting Phone Calls. Suffice to say that this one is part of the before selection:


How come you never called?/she said. I gave you my phone number /when we met. Are you collecting them /like they're postage stamps that'd be /worth more the longer you hold on to them? /If you are, you're in for a big surprise. /My number has already changed.


 Hal Sirowitz tends to get right to the point. Sometimes you know exactly where the poem is going. Other times, he slips in an odd angle that you aren't expecting. The surprises usually elicit a smile. This is not poetry that you have to spend weeks or months ruminating over. You will probably get the jokes the first time out.


There is a lot of cynical humor and Sirowitz is not afraid to take shots at himself. He makes jokes at his own expense in a poem like When Your Hand Is Your True Lover:


Even if our relationship didn't/work out, she said, at least you/got something from it--a nice/long break from masturbating.


I suppose there are some people that might find something like that a bit dicey. If you are easily offended you might want to pass this one by. Sirowitz for the most part does refrain from using obscenities though. I guess if you are writing about sex and physical relationships, you will need to put in a few saucy pieces.


Another thing that helps make this poetry work is that Sirowitz is using very accessible language. You don't sit there wondering whether or not he sleeps with an open Thesaurus. If he did there would likely be a poem in this volume telling us about it. He is very plain spoken but he is very good telling these brief tales. Throughout the book, he openly revels in his successes and failures.


I think this book would work well for fans of poetry that don't take things too seriously. It would also be good for fans of stand up comedy. Many of these poems could be worked into a pretty good stand up act. I recommend this one for those looking for a funny read. This is a clever and witty chap who put out a nice little 123 page volume of poetry on everyone's favorite subject: sex.

View fuche_bu's Full Portfolio