When Jack Spicer wrote, "You only have the right to piss in the fountain/if you are beautiful" all I could think of was Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita. When Charles Bukowski came out to read at St. Mark's in the Bowery carrying a six-pack, the kids cheered. I would've too but I was too busy staring at his boils. When James Merrill began consulting his Ouija Board, I went back and read "The Victor Dog." For Elizabeth Bishop.
A couple of weeks back, I saw an arch snippet of verse in the New Yorker titled "Lunch Poem for F. S." Farrar Straus Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi and "F. S." having it their way at Montrachet, separating shite from Shinola. Which ain't easy unless you're following an iron pinot noir with a double espresso. It's the iron that does it.
I thought to myself, if that is how Mr. Frederick Seidel spends his Friday afternoons downtown, why does he look like such a sourpuss? And why is his Poems 1959 - 2009 presented in such retrograde fashion? Only two descriptive sentences on the inside front flap and only one captioning his photograph on the back flap: "Frederick Seidel lives in New York City." Hmm. Perhaps FSG could not afford a copy-writer. In the author photo Mr. Seidel stands stiffly in a fine, though conspicuously wrinkled, double-breasted suit with pocket hanky. Perhaps he's a sapient, well-heeled rascal who too infrequently consults his mirror. Perhaps he's a humorless fellow with a taste for bespoke garments. Who knows? On the back of book appear sixteen hyperbolic quotes of praise. Only one is attributed to a woman.
So be it. Look inside the book, as Amazon asks us to do. There you'll find many excellent and entertaining poems on pages beautifully designed by Peter A. Andersen. Also a lot of pecker poems, if that's your thing. Mr. Seidel is a true aristocrat in verse. He can make words perform tricks that make the reader sit up and take notice. He can act like Tallulah Bankhead and play like Stan Musial. So why the need to play-act? Or 'sit' for a publicity-department piece like the one Wyatt Mason wrote for the Sunday New York Times Magazine in early April?
Poems 1959 - 2009 is not cheap. And thankfully it is not available for the Kindle. If you fancy poetry, poot, you should save up and get yourself a copy.