Poetry News

LA Times Reviews Maged Zaher's Thank You for the Window Office

By Harriet Staff


Have you heard the buzz about Maged Zaher's new book, Thank You for the Window Office (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012)? The LA Times has! In a review by book critic David Ulin, Zaher's UDP book is called "out-to-lunch"--referencing, of course, Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems--a connection which Zaher, writes Ulin, "makes explicit, albeit with a twist: 'I thought of Frank O’Hara,' he writes, 'walking New York streets / My lunch poems were composed over Chinese take out / While we decided whom to fire.'" "In that sense, its title is a metaphor — for all the things one has to do to get that window office, and then, to maintain one’s grip." More:

The writing is often striking (imagine, for instance, “Homer’s Twitter feed”) and almost always pointed; “Actually I am lying,” Zaher acknowledges, “I am always lying” — an admission that makes us all complicit: him for telling us, and us for listening in.

Complicity, of course, is at the heart of literature, complicity over what we’re reading and/or writing, complicity at our inability to change anything. Such an idea is woven into “Thank You for the Window Office,” which leaves nobody — not even its elusive narrator — off the hook.

“I have to wake up,” Zaher writes, “then do something difficult / Like letting go of five friends, then whispering / Did your faith help you today?”

Elsewhere, he returns to this notion of belief (in whatever, God or politics) as something of an empty solace: “Now — what to do with the thought that people lived / And died miserably? / And that all the religious and Marxist books / Can’t change anything about that?”

It’s not that Zaher is arguing for disengagement, just that, born in Cairo and now living in Seattle, he’s aware of sitting between worlds. His last book, “The Revolution Happened and You Didn’t Call Me,” was in some sense an expatriate’s response to the Arab Spring; as Stephen Collis noted on his blog Jacket2, “When a revolution happens in your hometown — and you are in exile — it’s not a matter of the personal being political, but the political becoming all too personal.”

Read the full review here.

Originally Published: January 29th, 2013