- 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: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Poems 1959-2009 1st Edition
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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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“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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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.
It is no exaggeration to call Seidel the best poet currently writing in English. No American poet has come close to his level of range and accomplishment since Robert Lowell's death in 1977. He has only been acknowledged in recent years, however, because of the oddity he represents among writers. Besides James Merrill (whose father, as a founder of Merrill-Lynch, left him an unbreakable trust fund), Seidel is the only poet of the modern era to have the aid of a private fortune to support him. This has allowed him not only ease of publication (with Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, no less) but the liberty of writing with absolute honesty. His sarcasm and viciousness have led some to call him the Hannibal Lecter of the literary world, a comparison as short-sighted as it is predictable.
"I want to date-rape life," he begins one poem, not only satirizing a culture that produces date-rape but the Whitmanesque joy for life. In another, he compares his glass of Haut-Brion to a crystal pistol, the barrel of which he's sucking "to get a bullet to [his] brain." Yet these are only excerpts (and oft-quoted ones at that). Seidel's work is full of memorable and grotesque images, all anchored by an ear formally trained in the modernist tradition. His collections of the decade from 1998 to 2008 are unlike anything else in all poetry, most resembling J.G. Ballard's dystopian fictions of ultra-modernity and decay.
Frederick Seidel, as one reviewer has noted, is the poet the twentieth century deserved, and, one might add, the one the twenty-first needs. All excess, all right-wing insanity, are self-parodying for the conscientious man who has them at his fingertips. His is a fight against complacency, our slobbering at the breast of consumerism. "Anything," Seidel writes, "is better than this/Bliss."
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I rarely use the word hate, but that is a true feeling I have had after reading some of of his...Read more