Here’s today’s poet, Frederick Seidel.
Frederick Seidel (born February 19, 1936) is an American poet.
Seidel was born to a family of Russian Jewish descent in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936. His family owned Seidel Coal and Coke, which supplied coal to the brewing industry in St. Louis, as well as a West Virginia mine. Seidel graduated from St. Louis Country Day School and earned his A.B. at Harvard University in 1957. Archibald MacLeish arranged for Seidel to take a leave of absence from Harvard so he could travel around Europe. In Europe Seidel spent time in Paris (where he took a virtual vow of silence for three months) and visited Oxford and Cambridge in England, where he met T. S. Eliot in London.
In 1962, his first book, Final Solutions, was chosen by a jury of Louise Bogan, Stanley Kunitz, and Robert Lowell for an award sponsored by the 92nd Street Y, with a $1,500 prize. However, both the association and the publisher rejected the manuscript for several reasons, one of which was that, in their opinion, “matter in one of the poems libeled a noted living person”. Another was that the national head of the YMHA/YWHA expressed concern that some of the poems were “anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic”, claims Seidel considered preposterous. When Seidel refused to make requested changes to his work, the prize was withdrawn and the promise of publication revoked. Bogan, Kunitz, and Lowell also resigned in protest.
This incident, in which Seidel’s poetry offended readers, was a defining moment in his career, and one that he would repeat in subsequent books by consciously trying to offend—or at least, to shock—his readers (although none of his subsequent books caused anywhere near the same degree of controversy as his first). Random House published the book the following year, but seventeen years would pass before Seidel published another work. His second book, Sunrise, was the 1980 Lamont Poetry Selection. His book Going Fast was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
In response to the publication of his Collected Poems, The New York Times Magazine’s Wyatt Mason wrote a long piece on the poet, titled “Laureate of the Louche”. New York Times book reviewer David Orr, in his review of Poems: 1959-2009, wrote, “[Seidel is] one of poetry’s few scary characters.”Seidel is frequently characterized as such, in part because in his writing he often makes use of violent and disturbing sexual imagery and presents himself as a rather unlikeable aesthete who embraces his own “elite” brand of materialism (extolling, for instance, his love of Ducati motorcycles and handmade shoes). However, Seidel often ironizes this persona, pushing it to cartoonish extremes.
This poem goes right to point, sex. Seidel does it better than anyone. How many poets do you know can just casually insert Viagra into a poem? Check out this selection I have for you today
F. M. Laster
“I only like two kinds of men, domestic and imported.” -Mae West
Sii Romantico, Seidel, Tanto Per Cambiare’
by Frederick Seidel.
Women have a playground slide
That wraps you in monsoon and takes you for a ride.
The English girl Louise, his latest squeeze, was being snide.
Easy to deride
The way he stayed alive to stay inside
His women with his puffed-up pride.
The pharmacy supplied
The rising fire truck ladder that the fire did not provide.
The toothless carnivore devoured Viagra and Finasteride
(Which is the one that shrinks the American prostate nationwide
And at a higher dosage grows hair on the bald) to stem the tide.
Not to die had been his way to hide
The fact that he was terrified.
He could not tell them that, it would be suicide.
It would make them even more humidified.
The women wrapped monsoon around him, thunder-thighed.
They guided his acetone to their formaldehyde.
Now Alpha will commit Omegacide.
He made them, like a doctor looking down a throat, open wide,
Say Ah; and ‘Ah, ‘ they sighed;
And out came sighing amplified
To fill a stadium with cyanide.
He filled the women with rodenticide.
Their wrists behind them, tried
Ball gags in their mouths, and was not satisfied.
The whole room when the dancing stated clapped and cried.
The bomber was the bomb, and many died.
The unshod got their feet back on and ran outside.
The wedding party bled around the dying groom and bride.