THE SECOND SEX by Michael Robbins is that rarest of finds: Page-turning poetry. For real — I actually stayed up late one night devouring this, thinking, Okay, just one more. That's because it contains poems with stanzas like these:
After the first sex, there is no other.
I stick my gender in a blender
and click send. Voilà!
Your new ex-girlfriend.
You cuckold me with your husband.
I move a box with Ludacris.
The captain turns on, we begin our descent.
Be gentle with me, I’m new to this.
From The Second Sex (read the whole poem here.)
Robbins is also the poet behind ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, a fantastic 2012 poetry collection that turned people's heads after the title poem appeared in The New Yorker and basically made minds explode. (Some, I'm sure, because the poem is awesome, and some, I'm sure, because The New Yorker was printing a poem titled "Alien vs. Predator." Some both, no doubt.) You can read that awesome poem here.
In the interest of full disclosure/context, I should add that Michael Robbins wrote one of my favorite reviews of SHOVEL READY, for the Chicago Tribune — and it was a favorite not just because it starts with the sentence "Adam Sternbergh's debut novel 'Shovel Ready' is awesome." (Though definitely it was a favorite, in part, because it starts with that sentence.) Robbins also called me out for using a Frederick Seidel quote as the book's epigraph, so he may be dismayed (or amused, or dismused) to know NEAR ENEMY features an epitaph from Anne Carson.
It actually did not click while I was reading that review (YES I READ REVIEWS SUE ME) that this Michael Robbins was the same Michael Robbins behind ALIEN VS. PREDATOR — a book I both love and would describe as formative, especially in regards to SHOVEL READY. (Or, at least, the poems I'd read from it prior to its publication.) I didn't realize the connection until I got to the bio line at the end of the review — and then felt doubly honored, since it's always (always) nice to get a thoughtful, engaged review, but doubly so when it's from a writer whose own work you really admire.
Robbins' poems are delightful anarchic swashbuckling mashups of pop-culture, poetry, and pulp. They're like gem-cut perfect slivers of right now. Michael Robbins will write a book of poetry that steals its title from an action movie, and then he'll write another one that steals its title from Simon de Beauvoir. Really, do you need any further endorsement than that?
You do? How about this: You will sit up late at night reading poetry, thinking, Okay, just one more.