Monday, August 3, 2009

The boogie man

Up to Bill Nelson version number 7 at the moment, I think 10 might be a nice number to reach.
How about either 'Bill Nelson' as a section title? Or 'Not Bill Nelson'? Or something that hints at the thing I am trying to do? Yes I like the something that hints at the thing I am trying to do. If I only I knew what that something was?

Read the rest of Ooga Booga (Seidel's second most recent book contained in Poems 1959-2009). I read a scathing review of it the other day, basically saying that the Seidel's aesthetic that critics had been so praising (apparently Ooga Booga was a bit of a hit) was precisely the thing that made Seidel so bad. Her name is Ange Mlinko writing in The Nation and she said a lot of stuff like this:
Rich white man, American, womanizer: he cops to it all and invites us to scapegoat him. That by doing this he has garnered a large following is not surprising. I'm not a moralist, and it would be fruitless to pillory readers for the pleasure they get from Seidel: it makes perfect sense that a poetry that prizes the same dialectic of exhibitionism and voyeurism that popular culture does would resonate with readers who don't read much other poetry.

That paragraph is almost laughable in it's contradictions, but she probably represents a fairly large number of poets/reviewers out there. Those that think
  1. poetry is some kind of higher art form above the common people (read popular culture)
  2. poetry should be beautiful and nice and tell us how great the world is, despite everything
Seidel never does that and I love him for it. His aesthetic unease, his crazy, awkward rhyme schemes are yes, not something you would constantly want to read, but are incredibly appropriate for his subject matter and for me are part of the total package of his poetry. The poetry of unease maybe? It seems sometimes, like poetry is the only art form that can't be nasty. Why? Film, music, visual arts, dance, opera whatever all have the dark, immoral sub-genres or whatever. Why not poetry? Seidel's poetry is fresh and he is rare in that he is doing something truly different. I don't read too much of his stuff as autobiographical either. It seems he has created a persona for the purpose of his poetry to me. Maybe he has dones some of the stuff, but I think when it comes down to it the poetry's sensibilities do lie in what is right and wrong. This seems to come through in his political stuff, like in The Bush Administration (from Ooga Booga):
CENTCOM is drawing up war plans.
They will drop snow on Congo.
It will melt without leaving a trace, at great expense.
America will pay any price to whiten darkness.
My fellow citizen cicadas rise to the tops of the vanished Twin Towers
And float back down white as ashes
To introduce a new Ice Age.
The countless generations rise from the underground this afternoon
And fall like rain.
I never thought that I would live to see the towers fall again.

I mean I guess, it's the same voice in this poem as the others, so it would be difficult to say it is the 'real' Seidel coming through. But maybe highlighting the true injustice of the Bush Administration by taking this stand when he (his narrator) is so highly immoral is what he is trying to do. This character who sleeps with young woman with such relish and does all kind of horrible, hedonistic things still thinks the Bush Administration is immoral - what is that saying? What does it say about all the so called 'moral' elite who supported Bush, championed the war in Iraq? Who is the real Ooga Booga man there?

Shit, getting on a total political rant. Sorry.

It definitely provides food for thought anyway when thinking about what are we actually trying to do with poetry and how can we best go about doing it. There are many ways I guess and everyone has to find their own, but personally I think Seidel's way is damn exciting.

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