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Poems 1959-2009 Hardcover – March 31, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No one can be neutral about Seidel: to his admirers, he tells truths about American life that other poets are too cowardly to state—about our obsessions with sex and money; our love-hate relationship with terrorism and war; our hypocritical squeamishness about masculine desire. I want to date-rape life, one poem begins. From early work imitative of Robert Lowell, Seidel became by the 1990s a fecund dazzler whose rhyming lines, clear and sharp as diamonds, face the facts and stare down headline news. My subject has always been death and breasts and politics, he says in one poem. Arranged with 27 new poems first, and his debut volume, Final Solutions (1963) last, the hefty collection offers spicy surprises and sticky situations. In the Mirror finds Seidel at Claridge's, the expensive London hotel, musing, I wouldn't dream of plastic surgery/ Unless it somehow helped the poetry. The 100 poems in The Cosmos Poems (2000) digress instead to science (It is the invisible/ Dark matter we are not made of/ That I am afraid of). Detractors will ask whether Seidel relies too much, too often, on shock value, and whether he simply celebrates the voraciously boastful ego he claims to mock. This retrospective will continue to fuel that debate. (Apr.)
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Review

“The most frightening American poet ever—phallus-man, hangman of political barbarism—Seidel is the poet the twentieth century deserved.”—Calvin Bedient, Boston Review

“He radiates heat. It is apparent that he has asked himself frightful questions and has not dodged the implications of their equally frightful answers . . . A master of metaphor.”—Louise Bogan, The New Yorker

“Beguiling and magisterial.”—Joel Brouwer, The New York Times Book Review

“Profoundly beautiful . . . The writer willing to say the unsayable.”—Philip Connors, n+1

“The best verse out of the United States since whenever.”—Joe Fiorito, The Toronto Star

“Among the two or three finest poets writing in English.”—Alex Halberstadt, New York

“[Final Solutions] seems to me one of the most moving and powerful books of poetry to have come along in years.”—Anthony Hecht, The New York Review of Books

Area Code 212 [is] our new Waste Land, as monitory and radical . . . as Eliot’s poem was in 1922.”—George Held, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A triumphant outsider in American poetry . . . He takes risks utterly unthinkable, even as merely mutinous provocation, in an academic workshop.”—Ernest Hilbert, Contemporary Poetry Review

“[Life on Earth] is an exemplary book . . . One of the best by an American poet in the past twenty years.”—Michael Hofmann, The Times Literary Supplement

“One of the world’s most inspired and unusual poets . . . His poems are a triumph of cosmic awe in the face of earthly terror.” —Hillel Italie, USA Today

“In American poetry today there is no one with Frederick Seidel’s sheer ambition, comprehensive sense of our times, sophistication, nerve and skill . . . One of the most vital and important poets we have.”—Lawrence Joseph, The Nation

“The excellent table manners combined with a savage display of appetite: this is what everyone notices in Seidel. Yet he wouldn’t be so special or powerful a poet of what’s cruel, corrupt, and horrifying had he not also lately shown himself to be a great poet of innocence.”—Benjamin Kunkel, Harper’s Magazine

“In the desert of contemporary American poetry, Frederick Seidel’s work awaits the weary reader like an oasis.”—James Lasdun, The Guardian

“Here is the new kind of visionary, the person who really wants to change the world fast, the person who believes in something.”—Adam Phillips, Raritan

“Frederick Seidel is a ghoul, and he has produced this nascent century's finest collection of English poems.”—Michael Robbins, Chicago Review

"Frederick Seidel, for fifty years and across ten collections, has been writing our most serious, beautiful, and essential poems, poems that are shocking in their art and astonishing in their truth, and that remind us, in their forms, why poetry was once a vital part of cultural life"—Wyatt Mason, Harper's "Weekend Read"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374126550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374126551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Discovering Seidel was a breath of fresh, although sometimes malodorous, like life can be, air. His honesty is courageous, he's willing to say things we think but wouldn't have the guts to say. He's a practitioner of "free speech" and that's bound to make a lot of people unhappy and he will be shunned.
If you doubt the unacceptability of the truth, than read Mark Twains previously unpublished essay,"The Privilege of the Grave," its about the price of free speech.
I agree with the reviewer who said, pull up a chair and enjoy, exactly what I'm doing and I will greive finishing his collected poems, but I'm sure I'll spend a lifetime rereading and learning from them.
Seidel's said that his poetry is incomprehensible to him, some of its incomprehensible to me, but then again I like Gertrude Stein who's totally incomprehensible. But they're having a good time, Seidel's poetry is, to the bone, honest, shocking,funny,whimsical, sad, and, perhaps most important of all, existentially instructive. If you want solace for life, this is it with no punches pulled. He reminds me of the best of the Theatre of the Absurd, he's a living breathing character out of "Waiting for Godot," racing motorcycles, courting, thus defying death, living an unapologetic sybaritic life, at least he used to, he's 73 and may have scaled it back.
Is he a genius--no, he lacks grandeur. Do we need more of his kind of poetry--indubitably.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
can't believe he's not more well known. best book i've read in a long time, let alone in poetry genre. not all the works are great but there are a lot of titles to choose from. stark turns of phrase and trains of thought that will punch you in the gut, the heart, or the groin.
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Format: Paperback
I would have given this another star, but for whatever reason the quality of the physical book is very poor. The paper is cheap with a grayish tinge, the print is rather faint, also tending to gray, and the whole thing seems to have been run off on a photocopier by someone who was paid by the page--many of which (the pages) have a sort of wrinkle cascading down them, also making reading difficult. I refer to the paperback version. Does anyone else's copy have these problems? I am surprised, because I am used to poetry books looking finer than this.
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Format: Kindle Edition
for whatever reason, the collected volumes start from EVENING MAN (2008) and go back to poems from seidel's first published work FINAL SOLUTIONS (1963). do yourself a favor and begin reading the poems here collected from seidel's single volumes in chronological order and experience the development of a strong poet.

seidel began his career as a poet with a blessing from ezra pound. a seventeen year old harvard undergrad, seidel wrote the great poet a letter and received an invitation from pound himself to visit him at saint elizabeth hospital. they spent days together, a correspondence ensued, seidel was given a written introduction to t.s. eliot who at eighteen seidel traveled to london to meet. later seidel would commemorate his meeting with pound in a poem.

seidel got off to a great publishing start, his fist collection of poems, FINAL SOLUTIONS, was described as scandalous as several reasons. african-americans feature in several of his poems, servants of his wealthy family, his father made his fortune in coal, a life source for many of the black population of st. louis, missouri. in an early poem, found in this book in two collections, FINAL SOLUTIONS and SUNRISE, WANTING TO LIVE IN HARLEM, a title true to the tone of white hipsters and beatniks listening to jazz and speaking the idiom of black hipsters during the 1950s of kerouac, ginsberg and mailer, seidel as a young man wrote of 1936:

(The Olympics/Year of my birth and Jesse Owens's putsch...).

at thirteen in 1949 he confessed:

One night, by the night of her nitelite, I watched the maid
Weaving before her mirror in the dark, naked. ...
All night I tossed.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That's the title this book ought to have (as in "Being John Malkovich"), because Seidel's poems grab you so quickly it's like being sucked into someone else's consciousness at warp-speed. Once you've accustomed yourself to your new surroundings -- vast wealth, swank hotels, gorgeous women, bespoke suits, transatlantic flights in first class -- you will almost certainly be fascinated. Like another great American poet of the last half-century, James Merrill, Seidel inherited vast wealth and has repaid it by writing a great many poems that are unlike anyone else's.

It could be argued that almost his entire literary output is a sly send-up of the tired "creative writing" mantra, "Write What You Know." And what Seidel knows, despite his leftist politics, is the world of the "1 %." What's more he's only to happy to show it to you, whether he's having dinner at the Carlyle, spending time with the CEO of Ducati (he's a motorcycle fanatic), or seducing a girl decades younger.

Whether or not Seidel is a "great" poet, I don't know, even in subjective terms, not having read him for long enough to fully gauge my own reactions. But he's a welcome change from the usual workshop-fodder filed under "contemporary poetry." Bold, technically daring, highly intelligent and often deliberately outrageous, Seidel is capable of deep feeling, tenderness, and refinement as well as shock value. Whatever you think of him, he's not a poet who goes in one ear and out the other. Just don't expect him to be "nice" all the time.
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