From Publishers Weekly
Seidel's 14th book finds his caustic vigor undiminished, his high-volume confidence as entertaining—or disturbing—as ever: gleeful antiwar protests and self-mocking, obvious rhymes zip easily among a bombed Baghdad, a deluxe version of Paris and a hyperbolically glitzy jetset New York. The volume's emotions swing, too, between the aging poet's obsession with death and his adjacent obsession with sexual prowess: "I spend most of my time not dying./... / I climb on a woman I love./ I repeat my themes," he announces. Many of the poems aspire at once to shock us and to sound blithely assured, with utterances no other poet would think to—nor perhaps want to—set down: "The vagina-eyed Modigliani nude/ Made me lewd," for example. Seidel (The Cosmos Trilogy, 2003) perhaps satirizes a Western capitalism in which no one can be rich enough, fast enough or man enough to satisfy his own ideals. Yet for every reader who finds brilliant, social critique, there may be another who wonders if it's all a joke. (Nov.)
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With the opening poem, "Kill Poem," readers familiar with Seidel may experience a flashback to "Scotland," the first poem in These Days (1989), given how elements of history, civilization, hunting, and killing are intertwined. And, indeed, this new collection has all the usual Seidel subjects, from fox hunts to violins to Paris and politics (Seidel even confesses twice, "I repeat themes")--but this doesn't diminish the intensity, skill, or bravery of his masterfully shocking style of poetic acrobatics. While some of Seidel's poems border on navel-gazing, others (like "Mother Nature," "The Bush Administration," and "The Death of the Shah") stunningly throw open windows of thought by allowing disparate elements to unite in enlightening ways. One may dislike Seidel's poetry, but most would be hard-pressed to disagree with his work's importance and originality, or deny his artistic courage. We need more poets like Seidel to rub us the wrong way, and induce us to think critically about our history, leaders, and actions. Janet St. John
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