Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frederick Seidel has arrived

I wrote a poem about Milan today. Why? Because I had a photo of it from the time I was there of some political graffiti that I had never really considered the meaning of, and now, today, I suddenly realised what they were probably on about and the fact that I took a picture of it is quite ironic. Damn, irony, seems like such a dirty word these days.

And yes, I am reading Frederick Seidel. Good guess. Chris lent me her copy of his Poems 1959-2009 (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, NY, 2009). So excited, because I can't afford it right now and Chris hasn't even read it. So I'm incredibly grateful for that.

The poems are in reverse chronological order, so I started with his newest stuff from Evening Man (2008). Some of the end line rhyming ones I just couldn't get into. I guess I still have some of that modernist schooling in me that cringes whenever end rhymes come in. I'm sure he is doing it ironically or super-cleverly in some way. I guess I just have to figure out what that is. Funny how reverence can let you get away with stuff eh? If it was some so called 'lesser' poet, I don't think I'd be quite so favourable. However some of them are gorgeous and all, of course, a brutal and astonishing in almost every way. One of the ones I liked (Ode to Spring) I'd read on the internet somewhere, so I guess I'm not the only one. But here is a few lines from Bipolar Novemember, another that I liked:
I get a phone call from my dog who died,
But I don't really.
I don't hear anything.
Dear Jimmy, it is hard.
Dear dog, you were just a dog.
I am returning your call.

I have nothing to say.
I have nothing to add.
I have nothing to add to that.
I am saying hello to no.
How do you do, no!
I am retutning your call.

Absolutely fucking nuts. I love it!
And here is an example of a heavy rhyme part that tripped me to start with, but I am sure in time, I will come to love. Haha! The end of Coconut:
Happy birthday, Doctor Hart.
You stopped my heart.
You made it start.
You supply the Hart part. I'll supply the art part.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I guess that's what he wants.
So yeah, many more polarised opinions to come.


  1. Hi there - just came here on an image search, and I'm just struck. I think if you're angsting about Seidel's rhyme - which he's using as a form of wordplay - you are really missing the point... I think you should just leave that didactic Puritanical anti-rhyme thing behind, and embrace words, and ALL that they can do. I don't understand why we write as if we hate words. And we forget about the most important organ in poetry-writing, the ear. That bit you quote above is all about the ear (and the laughing/crying thing). Gorgeous.

    It's really sad that we still feel we have to be so anti-play, just because 100 years ago people thought industrial machines were nice (and look where that got us).

    Sophisticated use of rhyme and even metre, a post-modernist way, is a tool - or are tools - for making something surprising in a poem. Making it click into place. Making it memorable. And Seidel is just so outrageously ahead of current poetic thinking that I think you should trust him. Just jump on that Bugatti with him and go for a ride...

    Sorry, I went away and then kept thinking about your remarks, so came back. And I'm really jealous you have that book!

  2. Thanks for you comment. And I completely agree! I wasn't angsting about rhyme at all. In fact I am completely the opposite. I love it! And most of my own work is riddled with what you call wordplay (and rhyme). But that poem I quoted is incredibly heavy with end rhyme and initially it came as a shock, which is I think what Seidel wanted. In a way it does overpower the poem, but again, I think, what he wanted. I find that poem hilarious, particularly the last line in its audacity. Who would even conceive writing a line like that - Seidel does, and we love him for it! Believe me I am thoroughly in the Seidel camp, bordering on obsessive even. And like you, he is for me a pioneer, a way forward. I have many other posts about him if you need evidence.

    Thanks again for the comment and it's good to meet another Seidel fan!




Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

/* Google analytics */