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Seidman does not shirk--ever. His poems either go down in flames, unapologetic, or else rise to unusual heights of knotted utterance. For instance, there are poems in this third collection (following Collecting Evidence and Blood Lord) wherein Seidman seemingly attempts to salvage Imagism singlehandedly: ""Are these the sunbursts yet to be the blind/ scalpels that would sign/ below the breasts of the fleshed sky/ to fit the heart into the body to survive."" There are poems like ""Agent Orange,"" which whistles (not too successfully) past the graveyard of the ludicrous: ""Though the spike-heeled Asian/ girls go blind counting them on the microchips for the missiles/ buried on the prairies like hieroglyphs."" Or ""Couplets,"" which tries to work wonders--with fragile effects--out of a contrasting use of the anagrammatic (!) figures of W. C. Fields and Fidel Castro. And furthermore, since Seidman uses conjunctions--but, and, or, though--to inaugurate his stanzas, he makes them both impossibly buried and incantatory. Still, notwithstanding all these kamikaze devices, several Seidman poems do unmoor and rise--and these offer some of the strongest American poetry of our time: the poisoned nursery-rhyme-like poems about the poet's Brooklyn parents; the psychological unpeeling of infanthood in ""The Awakened""; and--a truly major poem--""The Best Thing."" With these, and with the risks taken throughout, Seidman gives us one of the most dramatic, challenging, and uncompromising books of poetry by an American in the last five years: essential reading for followers of contemporary US poetics.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1982
Publisher: Random House