SUNRISE by Frederick Seidel


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What's magnetic about Seidel is his authority--you don't pull away once he's begun, you're consistently interested. His proper nouns, his contemporary history, his glimpses of the lives of the rich and spoiled and sick at heart all have the perfect amount of pressure exerted on them. His lyrics are almost hypochondriacally body-aware, as hysterically social as a Charlus. When he lifts childhood's lid and finds there a perfect half-reality (""When you are little, a knee of your knickers torn,/ The freshness of rain about to fall is what/ It would be like not to have been born""), or when his use of image, as in ""Fever,"" is brilliantly woozy--these times he is an impressive, even superb poet. But along with what's gem-like in Seidel's glossy surfaces, there's equally much that's just titillating, lurid as a Pop Art mural (""A football spirals through the oyster glow/ Of dawn dope and fog in L.A.'s/ Bel Air, punted perfectly. The foot/ That punted it is absolutely stoned""), hyperactive, and thrill-seeking. Poems are awash in crocodile tears (many fetishistic references to Harlem--as seen from downtown) and overeager to confess elitism (thus Seidel's friends--""elegant and guileless/ Above our English clothes/ And Cartier watches, which ten years later/ shopgirls/ And Bloomingdale's fairies would wear/ And the people who pronounce chic chick""). The risk Seidel knowingly takes in presenting poems so shiny, sleek, and stagy (each of them usually containing a few stunningly delicate reeds) is to be duly respected. But bravery is not always real strength, and Seidel's tonal profligacy ministers mostly, in the end, to a reader's curiosity. It lacks the patience for its own pain.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1980
Publisher: Viking