by Frederick Seidel
A naked woman my age is a total nightmare.
A woman my age naked is a nightmare.
It doesn’t matter. One doesn’t care.
One doesn’t say it out loud because it’s rare
For anyone to be willing to say it,
Because it’s the equivalent of buying billboard space to display it,
Display how horrible life after death is,
How horrible to draw your last breath is,
When you go on living.
I hate the old couples on their walkers giving
Off odors of love, and in City Diner eating a ray
Of hope, and paying and trembling back out on Broadway,
Drumming and dancing, chanting something nearly unbearable,
Spreading their wings in order to be more beautiful and more terrible.
Poetry: I just can’t get enough, it seems. Yeah, I know you come here to read dirty stuff from the Phone Sex Goddess, the Queen of Kink, the Damsel of Debauchery. I get that. I really do. But there is a lot more to me than "Smut Literatrix" and if you don’t want these other parts of me … sorry, chump. Google your favorite dirty words and get on with it. Or you could hop on over to Blistered Lips, where I keep my little trove of personally-written FREE smut. Either way, I’ll be here when you get back.
So let’s get back to talking about this poem/poet. First off, from my point of observation, it’s comme il faut to blog about this poem today, because I’m going to a Broadway show tonight. And, oh yes, I am excited. But more about that at some future date.
It seems that Mr. Seidel is currently the toast of the town with the recent publication of Poems 1959-2009. Everybody’s talking and I’m listening.
Michael Hoffman of The Poetry Foundation notes:
From the beginning, Seidel was always a bogeyman, a Bürgerschreck, an épateur—a carnivore if not a cannibal in the blandly vegan compound of contemporary poetry
From Wyatt Mason at The New York Times:
… novelists are among Seidel’s most articulate advocates. Norman Rush recognizes how Seidel’s choices can be misunderstood: “The risks Seidel takes have to do with threatening the potential affection of new readers. They may see him as a ‘swell’ and take that presentation as reason enough not to be interested in what he’s doing. He doesn’t cozen the reader. But if you persist, the power and profundity of Seidel’s games, and his nerve, will get you — draw you into the extremely complex set of experiences that he’s laid out for you to have.”
Adam Kirsh (The New York Sun) answers the question, "Who is the best American poet writing today?" with:
Though the news will not be welcome to prize juries, literary philanthropists, and the people who choose the poems for the subway, I think it may be Frederick Seidel. There is a reason why Mr. Seidel, whose first book was published more than 40 years ago, has not accumulated the cargo of honors that turn so many poets his age into mere worthies: no Pulitzer, no National Book Award. Indeed, if you go to the "about the author" section of Mr. Seidel’s new Web site, you will find no curriculum vitae at all. Instead, Mr. Seidel offers a clipping from a 1962 issue of the New York Times, about the controversy that resulted when a panel of poets chose his first collection, "Final Solutions," for the 92nd Street Y’s inaugural poetry prize. Though the judges included Robert Lowell, the sponsor refused to publish the book, on the grounds that it libeled a living person.
Now — to my mind — this is an exciting and fascinating man/poet/iconoclast. Being somewhat of a maverick myself, I am downright rapturous over this guy and his book. I want to know more more more. Give me more more more. I want a biography. I want an autobiography. I want that book of poems. I want it bad bad bad. I want it yesterday. I want to prop it up next to my PC so I can cast loving glances at it. I want it in my purse so I can take it out at the nail salon and impress my fellow fashionistas. II want it under my pillow at night so I can fondle it and smell it up-close-and-personal.
But that’s beside the point. What’s more important is that I feel and see so much with this poem. First of all — despite the fact I’ve never been even close to New York — I feel the New York-iness of this poem. I can see the City Diner. I am sitting in the City Diner, feeling the aged leather of the booth cling to my legs as I peruse a yellowed menu of cheap and fattening food while watching the natives order french fries (not home fries!) with their bacon and eggs from a waitress named Frannie, wearing a triangled handkerchief above her left breast.
I know that elderly couple and the scent of their weathered love. A love so strong and so anchored in time they could care less what a poet sophisticate thinks of them … they have each other.
And how dare Mr. Seidel talk so candidly of aging women. Ouch! It just touches sooo deeply — and I’m not complaining, mind you. bring it on, Mr. Seidel. make me choke on your poem — because I fear aging, having played the youth card for all its worth in the pursuit and conquering of men.
Can you tell I’m excited? Yes, indeed, I am. I’ve caught up with some of Mr. Seidel’s work elsewhere. And I’m more than excited: I’m downright smitten. I’m hot to trot. I’m turned upside down and inside out. This guy is a versifying genius. I just might make him the Poet Savant of Zen. A new savant is — after all — long overdue, and I don’t think there’s anyone else even close to being worthy of carrying the mantle. Although I don’t think he’d thank me in the morning. *wink*
I’ll be thinking about you and Mr. Seidel and all that jazz on my way to the theater this evening. I’m much excited, and engaged and enthused — the three "Es" of Self-Actualization (I made that up, but it works for me). A special thank you to Mr. Smith who sent me a link in an email and got this whole ball rolling. The only other occasion he took time from his (most likely) busy schedule to write me was to complain about something we’ve since ironed out. So it was with much pleasure I received this particular email today. You did good, Mr. Smith!
ps. Speaking of Fredericks … Fredrick the Cross Dressing Cat has started his own blog. How cute is that? I always knew he was smarter than the average kitty. He’s also tweeting at twitter, so make sure to follow him.