Sunday, March 2, 2008

Frederick Seidel

I picked up Frederick Seidel’s book, Ooga-Booga, at the library and know that this book was quite popular for a poetry book when it came out. Born in 1936 in St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Seidel has had about a dozen poetry books published and been deemed controversial in his subjects. I should warn some of you that his poems aren’t for the faint of heart.
An nice collection of audio poems from his book Ooga-Booga can be found at the link below with his name and web-site being one and the same. His poems can be a bit over my head at times but they are always entertaining. What I find interesting is that there are some poems that will be titled one way and then he will expand on the poem or change it up while keeping familiar lines and give it a new name. I’ve never seen that before and I think it’s great to include them because many poets write several versions or editions of a poem and who is to say you can’t include different versions of the same poem within the same collection? One example is comparing his poem “Fog” to his poem “Racer.” Both poems start and end with the same lines; the beginning line: “I spend most of my time not dying.” The ending line: “Taking digital photographs of my death.” Many of the stanzas are the same but for “Racer,” which is dedicated to Paulo Ciabatti, there are new stanzas that include a man with his saxophone which does not appear in “Fog.” I don’t have any information as to how this came about and for all I know Mr. Seidel has answered why there are two versions of a poem in other interviews but I haven’t found them. If anyone has any answers to that, let me know.
Among the many poems worth mentioning I was struck by the ending of the poem “East Hampton Airport” because it took me by surprise. He speaks of flying with an instructor and while I was distracted by language in a previous stanza I come to the fact that the plane is literally stuck in midair. I am also struck by the fact that the ending does not include how the plane and pilots made it back safely. The audience is left hanging in suspense wondering “what did they do?” This kind of surprise is refreshing because you don’t always need to give the audience what they crave to keep their interest and this poem is a perfect example of it. If you haven’t read this book already I highly recommend it. Not only are there surprise endings and poems that are alike and yet not alike but there are also times when Seidel pokes fun at himself or breaks his heart openly on the page, all are thrilling. In the meantime, you can read/listen to Seidel at the links below:

Thanks for reading, please stop by tomorrow for another poetry web-site…

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