Book Review

Human Tetris by Vi Khi Nao and Ali Raz

a great, new, collection of short poems about love 'n' sex

It’s easy to forget is that poetry can be fun.

Poetry doesn’t have to be sad or angry or serious or complex: sometimes it can be a joyful evocation of the pleasures of life.

Poetry can be fun and fucking successful as literature. This is how I’d categorise Human Tetris, a 2019 collaborative collection written by Vi Khi Nao and Ali Raz and published by Minneapolis-based indie press, 11:11.

Human Tetris contains about 70 pieces, all of which riff on the idea of an old school “personal ad” or a bio on a dating app. To quote the book’s blurb, the pieces are a “cross between the genre of newspaper personals and the self-display of online dating.” That’s a better description lol.

All the poems are short, they vary in voice and tone, and they all quickly and directly evoke a clear portrait of a person.

All of the voices presented here are distinct characters, sketched in detail with only a few lines.

It sounds a bit high-school-stoner-intellectual to say “we are what we want” or “we are what we like”, but there’s an element of truth in that, especially in scenarios – such as the initial stages of seeking a romantic and/or sexual partner – when we’re being honest about what we want. We don’t usually get what we want if we don’t ask for it, right(?), and the book’s premise that it contains the words of many people proffering direct honesty makes for a rich source of poetry.

The book is filled with gorgeous lines and images, as well as many wonderful pieces that work without the contextualising background of the collection. Some are funny, some are sexy, some are [gently] sinister, some feel like they could be found texts from the sources of the inspiration, while others are more literary and poetic than the same texts would be in reality. Within a set format, size and structure, these two poets have produced some impressive, universal, verse.

Some of my personal highlights include:

  • “I’m exactly who you think I am; between / doses of coffee and ssri, I sink up out of the haze / sometimes, supercharged with sexual magnetism and that animal lust” – can relate
  • “You: […] have your shit together, and NOT boring” – lol as if anyone who who has their shit together isn’t boring
  • “I need someone sexy to blame / for all the great things / that are happening in my awesome life”
  • “LET ME USE YOUR BODY TO WEAPONISE LUST […] You are fuck. I am bedsheet. You are poetry. I am wind in which poetry climbs into.” Yes.
  • “I am also good at milking (not just animals).” tee hee
  • “TARZAN SEEKS JANE / or Jake / or another Tarzan”
  • “I am: youth greying into age” – just a beautiful phrase, I thought.

Looking back through the screenshots I took as I read the collection, there are too many lines and poems I’ve highlighted to quote them all, so I thought I’d end with three pieces in full. These are maybe typical of the collection as a whole, maybe not. There is romance and sexuality, there is lust and hope, there is joy and optimism and there is the beautiful intersection of fantasy and reality, which (I think) is where the most magical romances happen.

Human Tetris is a great collection: romantic and horny, clever and base, and I’d highly recommend it!

ORDER HUMAN TETRIS DIRECT FROM 11:11 VIA THIS LINK is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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