“We spent years on the phone daring each other / not to be young, not to be afraid of whatever / sex might mean,” writes poet Tim Seibles, in his collection Fast Animal (“Terry Moore” lines 29-31). After finishing Seibles’ collection, I let out a quiet “wow.” The writing is fresh and thoughtful, and so much of this collection reads effortlessly. There is a level of honesty in the prose that is unlike what I’ve seen before, and this is what makes it so powerful.
From the very beginning, Seibles makes it so that it’s impossible not to fall in love with the speaker of Fast Animal. The poem “Delores Jepps” remains one of my favorites. It’s innocent, and the graceful way with which the speaker talks about his high school crush in endearing: “I wish I could / have some small memory of her / warm and spicy mouth to wrap / these hungry words around,” (lines 56-59). The farther you move through the book, the more the speaker matures, but the coming of age poems in the beginning of the book pulled me in the most.In fact, my favorite lines in his collection come from “Delores Jepps:” “I didn’t know anything: my heart / so near the surface of my skin // I could have moved it with my hand” (lines 70-72). These three lines illustrate the upfront yet humble manner with which the speaker addresses his emotions throughout Fast Animal.
Although the writing is natural and unforced, his collection is very compelling. In “The Last Poem About Race” Seibles writes “I never want to think being American / is impossible, but the truth is / / some silly mothafuckas still fly / Confederate flags . . .” (24-27). I love the blunt nature of this poems. It’s sharp, smart, and important. In another poem, the speaker recounts dating a white woman as a black teenager in the 1970’s: “we knew without saying anything, / we were kissing the color line / goodbye” (“Allison Wolff” lines 66-68). Through these statements, Seibles is able to paint the 1970’s in a vivid and complex way.
In total, his collection is 90 pages of poetry. The writing reads easily, and I was able to finish Fast Animal in only two days. I think readers will appreciate Seibles’ use of detail, as well as his commentary about what it’s like to grow up in the U.S as an African-American male. The writing is simple yet universal, and I personally enjoyed the conversational tone in the poems, and I think readers will too.
Buy his collection from Etruscan Press here.
*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Etruscan Press: “Housed at Wilkes University and partnering with Youngstown State University, Etruscan is a non-profit literary press working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices. We publish books of poems, novels, short stories, creative non-fiction, criticism, translation, and anthologies. Three of our poetry collections have been National Book Award finalists; one of our titles was chosen as the Poetry Society of America’s First Book Award, and three poems have been chosen for Best American Poetry.” Check out their website here.*
(Photo of Etruscan Press Logo and cover of Fast Animal courtesy of Etruscan Press. I do not own these photos.)