From the Publisher
“There is no contemporary poet writing in English as witty, as shrewd, as touching and as debonair as Frederick Seidel. That's a lot of praise, but he surely merits it . . . [His] is the best kind of flippancy, informed by melancholy, anger at the technological wizardry more potent than faith, and a sense--echoed throughout the collection--of the imminence of death . . . If Seidel resembles anyone, it is Frank O'Hara, who died as a result of an absurd accident on the beach at Fire Island while still a young man. O'Hara was gay and Seidel is most decidedly not, but they both appear to be living in, and for, the moment as they explore the delights and horrors of New York City. I love the pair of them, especially for their refusal to indulge in vain pedantry or seriousness too solemn to account for the daily comedy of our lives.” Paul Bailey, The Independent
“[Seidel's] use of expressive language to describe grotesque scenes adds a certain lyrical menace to his established body of work . . . In the opening poem, ‘Night,' Seidel writes ‘Something is going on. Something is wrong,' as vignettes of a night in the city unfold. Indeed, Nice Weather is an eloquent exploration of the ‘cruel, corrupt, horrifying' topics that plague Seidel's mind. Heralded by The New York Times as a ‘triumphant outsider in American poetry,' Seidel's latest release makes for a riveting reading experience, filled with witty social criticisms and eloquent reflections.” Malibu Magazine
“In all his work, Seidel remains a larger than life figure, full of vice, menace, and power, and capable of uttering the most shocking thoughts. He writes with the same risky power as John Berryman and Sylvia Plath in their confessional poems. Berryman, however, wrote of his inner torments by inventing a surrogate named Henry, while Plath incarnated herself in a series of voracious, quasi-mythical speakers. Seidel, by writing under his own name yet predicating such impossible and scandalous things of himself, raises the stakes of confessional poetry to a new level . . . His new collection, Nice Weather, out this week from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, betrays no falling off in daring or up-to-the-moment engagement . . . What is new is the sense, pervasive in Nice Weather, that he is coming to the end of his life and, what may be worse, of his potency. Like the late work of Robert Lowell, Nice Weather confronts these losses with a combination of nostalgic resignation and fierce defiance . . . The most moving poems in Nice Weather, however, are those in which Seidel reflects on his artistic accomplishment and how it weighs in the balance with death. At times he is cynical and dismissive . . . In other poems, he seems to regret the way the persona he has constructed in his work will replace him in the world after he disappears . . . But it is not for a writer like Seidel to ask for the reader's pity. He remains, even now, a poet of wonderful fearlessness and daring, and he deserves to be remembered as the transgressive adventurer he is: ‘A Jew found frozen on the mountain at the howling summit,/ Immortally preserved singing to the dying planet from it.'” Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine
“The most frightening American poet ever--phallus-man, hangman of political barbarism--Seidel is the poet the twentieth century deserved.” Calvin Bedient, Boston Review on Frederick Seidel
“[Seidel is] a carnivore if not a cannibal in the blandly vegan compound of contemporary poetry . . . Thank God for Fred Seidel.” Michael Hofmann, Poetry on Frederick Seidel
“There had never been a poet like this one before: the poet of a new contemporary form, a highlight reel--one spectacular feat after another, with all the humdrum stuff spliced out.” Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books on Frederick Seidel
“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 Magazine on Frederick Seidel
“In the desert of contemporary American poetry, Frederick Seidel's work awaits the weary reader like an oasis.” James Lasdun, The Guardian
Read an Excerpt
By Frederick Seidel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Copyright © 2012 Frederick Seidel
All rights reserved.
The city sleeps with the lights on.
The insomniac wants it to be morning.
The quadruple amputee asks the night nurse what time it is.
The woman is asking for her mother,
But the mother is exhausted and asleep and long since dead.
The nun screams to stop the charging rhino
And sits bolt upright in bed
Attached to a catheter.
If a mole were afraid of the dark
Underground, its home, afraid of the dark,
And climbed out into the light of day, utterly blind,
Destroying the lawn, it would probably be caught and shot,
But not in the recovery room after a craniotomy.
The prostitute suspects what her client might want her to do.
Something is going on. Something is wrong.
Meanwhile, the customer is frightened, too.
The city sleeps with the lights on.
The garbage trucks come in the night and make noise and are gone.
Two angelfish swim around the room and out the window.
Laundry suns on a line beneath white summer cumulus.
Summer thunder bumbles in the distance.
The prostitute — whose name is Dawn —
Takes the man in her mouth and spits out blood,
I smile in the mirror at my teeth —
Which are their usual brown.
My smile is wearing a wreath.
I walk wreathed in brown around town.
I smile and rarely frown.
I find perfection in
The passing store windows
I glance at my reflection in.
It's citywide narcissism. Citizens steal a little peek, and what it shows
Is that every ugly lightbulb in that one moment glows.
A preposterous example: I'm getting an ultrasound
Of my carotid artery,
And the woman doing it, a tough transplanted Israeli, bends around
And says huskily, "Don't tell anybody
I said that your carotid is extraordinary."
I'm so proud!
It's so ridiculous I have to laugh.
The technician is very well endowed.
I'm a collapsible top hat — a chapeau claque — that half
The time struts around at Ascot but can be collapsed flat just like that. Baff!
Till it pops back. Paff! Oh yes,
I find myself superb
When I undress.
A lovely lightbulb is my suburb,
And my flower, and my verb.
The naked man, after climbing the steps out of the subway,
Has moderate dyspnea, and is seventy-four.
He was walking down the street in Milan one day.
This was long ago. He began to snore.
He saw a sleeping man reflected in the window of a store.
THE YELLOW CAB
Tree-lined side streets make me lonely.
Many-windowed town houses make me sad.
The nicest possible spring day, like today, only
Ignites my inner suicide-bomber jihad.
I'm high on the fumes of my smokin' sunglasses,
But my exhaust pipe has a leak, which smells bad.
Take away my hack license. Open the windows. I'm passing gases.
A driver of a medallion taxi has gone completely mad.
Yellow cab, yellow cab, where have you been?
I've been to the mirror to try to look in.
Yellow cab, yellow cab, what found you there?
Soft contact lenses on four wheels and a fare.
The million leaves on the Central Park trees are popping
Open the champagne.
There's too much joy. There's no stopping.
Love is on top, fucking pain.
July 4th fireworks exhale over the Hudson sadly.
It is beautiful that they have to disappear.
It's like the time you said I love you madly.
That was an hour ago. It's been a fervent year.
I don't really love fireworks, not really, the flavorful floating shroud
In the nighttime sky above the river and the crowd.
This time, because of the distance upriver perhaps, they're not loud,
Even the colors aren't, the patterns getting pregnant and popping.
They get bigger and louder when they start stopping.
They try to rally
At the finale.
It's the four-hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery —
Which is why the fireworks happen on this side of the island this year.
Shad are back, and we celebrate the Hudson's Clean Water Act recovery.
What a joy to eat the unborn. We're monsters, I fear. What monsters we're.
We'll binge on shad roe next spring in the delicious few minutes it's here.
The sweetness of the freshness of the breeze!
The wind is wiggling the trees.
The sky is black. The trees deep green.
The man mowing the enormous lawn before it rains makes goodness clean.
It's the smell of laundry on the line
And the smell of the sea, brisk iodine,
Nine hundred miles inland from the ocean, it's that smell.
It makes someone little who has a fever feel almost well.
It's exactly what a sick person needs to eat.
Maybe it's coming from Illinois in the heat.
Watch out for the crows, though.
With them around, caw, caw, it's going to snow.
I think I'm still asleep. I hope I said my prayers before I died.
I hear the milkman setting the clinking bottles down outside.
MIDTERM ELECTION RESULTS, 2010
My old buddy, my body!
What happened to drive us apart?
Think of our trips to Bologna.
Think of our Ducati racebikes screaming.
We drank hypersonic grappa.
We got near the screaming Goyas.
What's blinding is Velázquez.
We never left the Prado —
And never saw Madrid!
That's what we did.
We met for lunch at the Paris Ritz.
We walked arm in arm
Through Place Vendôme.
Each put out a wrist
To try on a watch at Patek Philippe.
Unseparated Siamese twins,
We had to have the same girlfriend
And slept with her together.
We hopped on the Concorde,
Front cabin, seat 1.
Oh not to be meek and ache
And drop dead straining on the toilet seat.
Everyone on the sidewalk walks faster —
And didn't you use to walk
Springing up on the balls of your feet!
A single-engine light airplane
Snores in the slow blue dreamy afternoon.
This is our breakup.
We are down here falling apart.
The ocean crashes and crashes.
I put my arms around you —
But it's no good.
I climb the stairs —
It's not the same.
It's a flameout and windmill restart!
Midwinter murder is in my heart
As I stand there on the curb in my opera pumps,
Waiting for the car to come and the opera to start,
Amid the Broadway homeless frozen clumps.
Patent leather makes my shoes
Easter eggs by Fabergé.
The shoes say New York is still run by the Jews,
Who glitter when they walk, and aren't going away.
The morning after the Mozart, when I take my morning stroll, I feel
Removed all over again from the freezing suffering I see.
Someone has designed a beautiful, fully automatic, stainless steel,
Recoilless assault shotgun down in Tennessee.
The dogs tied up outside the Broadway stores
In the cold look with such touching expectancy inside.
A dog needs to adore. A dog adores.
A dog waiting for an owner is hot with identity and pride.
I'd like to meet the genius in Tennessee, or at least speak
To the gun on the phone.
I'd like to be both the dog owner and the dog. I'd leak
Love after I'd shot myself to shit. I'd write myself a bone.
Snow is what it does.
It falls and it stays and it goes.
It melts and it is here somewhere.
We all will get there.
IN MEMORY OF CHARLES P. SIFTON (1935–2009)
I remember the judge in a particular
Light brown chalk-stripe suit
In which he looked like a boy,
Half hayseed, half long face, half wild horse on the plains,
Half the poet Boris Pasternak with a banjo pick,
Plucking a twanging banjo and singing Pete Seeger labor songs.
I remember a particular color of
A kind of American original orange,
Except it was rather red, the dark colors of fire,
In a Tom Sawyer hairstyle,
Which I guess means naturally
Unjudicial and in a boyish
Will Rogers waterfall
Over the forehead,
And then we both got bald ...
My Harvard roommate, part of my heart,
The Honorable Charles Proctor Sifton of the Eastern District.
Harvard sweet-talked you and me into living in Claverly
Sophomore year, where no one wanted to be.
We were the elect, stars in our class selected
To try to make this palace for losers respected.
The privileged would light the working fireplaces of the rejected.
Everyone called you Tony except me, and finally —
After years — you told me you had put up with years of "Charlie"
From me, but it had been hard!
Yes, but when now
I made an effort to call you Tony, it sounded so odd to you,
You begged me to come back home. Your Honor,
The women firefighters you ruled in favor of lift their hoses high,
Lift their hoses high,
Like elephants raising their trunks trumpeting.
Flame will never be the same. Sifton, row the boat ashore.
Then you'll hear the trumpet blow.
Then you'll hear the trumpet sound.
The world around.
Flame will never be the same!
Sifton, row the boat ashore.
Tony and Charlie is walking through that door.
ARNOLD TOYNBEE, MAC BUNDY, HERCULES BELLVILLE
Seventy-two hours literally without sleep.
I found myself standing at the back
Of Sanders Theatre
For a lecture by Arnold Toynbee.
Standing room only.
Oxford had just published
With great fanfare Volume X of his interminable
Magnum opus, A Study of History.
McGeorge Bundy, the dean of the faculty,
National Security Adviser, then LBJ's, came out onstage
To invite all those standing in the back
To come up onstage and use
The dozen rows of folding chairs already
Set out for the Harvard Choral Society
Performance the next day.
Bundy was the extreme of Brahmin excellence.
I floated up there in a trance.
His penis was a frosted cocktail shaker pouring out a cocktail,
But out came jellied napalm.
The best and the brightest
Drank the fairy tale.
The Groton School and Skull and Bones plucked his lyre.
Hercules Bellville died today.
He apparently said to friends:
"Tut, tut, no long faces now."
He got married on his deathbed,
Having set one condition for the little ceremony: no hats.
I knew I would lapse
Into a coma in full view of the Harvard audience.
I would struggle to stay awake
And start to fall asleep.
I would jerk awake in my chair
And almost fall on the floor. I put Hercky
In a poem of mine called "Fucking" thirty-one years ago, only
I called him Pericles in my poem.
At the end of "Fucking," as he had in life,
Hercules pulled out a sterling-silver-plated revolver
At a dinner party in London,
And pointed it at people, who smiled.
I had fallen in love at first sight
With a woman there I was about to meet.
One didn't know if the thing could be fired.
That was the poem.
Excerpted from Nice Weather by Frederick Seidel. Copyright © 2012 Frederick Seidel. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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