Crisply comic, disarmingly frank, and aurally bold, the sharpest poems in this seventh volume from Seibles (Hammerlock) set their emotional honesty in concisely unpredictable free verse. Many concern straight boys and young men in love: poems named for childhood friends, for a middle school beauty, for high school girlfriends, shuttle between a sunlit puppy love and a sadder reflection on men and women, want and need. In “Alison Wolff,” the African-American Seibles and his teenage pals “wondered what white girls were/ really like, as if they’d been raised/ by the freckled light of the moon.” In “Donna James,” sex itself is “a kind of/ miracle,” but not quite a surprise. These tender poems reach back decades for their realism (Seibles grew up in the 1950s and 1960s). Along with them come poems of popular culture, fantasy, and contemporary life in the person of the superhero Blade, an African-American vampire hunter who is half vampire himself: “The first time/ I killed a vampire I was// sad: I mean/ we were almost/ family.” Seibles’s clipped lines owe a lot to Yusef Komunyakaa, and to Robert Creeley, too, as well as to his own warm, reflective powers, making his poems on teenage preoccupations ultimately serious, wry, likable, and paradoxically adult. (Feb.)
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