‘I was dreaming you on TV/ between fiction and news,” Hugh Seidman, winner of the 2004 Green Rose Prize, writes in his romantically infused sixth collection of poems, “Somebody Stand Up and Sing.” After reading his poetry, you might find yourself dreaming Seidman.
O Dream Dream Dream
I fasted not nor atoned
I made no tabernacle
on Tish’a Be’ab with
Seidman —whose first collection of poems, “Collecting Evidence,” published in 1970, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize — offers a new collection that itself falls somewhere between fiction and news. The reader is led by the hand through five permutations of the 64-year-old poet’s own peripatetic, stargazing life reverie. It is sometimes confusing, often enlightening and always musical. The Brooklyn-born Seidman, who has lived in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for the past 20 years, has marked the mutability of the poet’s personality in five discrete sections.
Part one is a colloquial conversation with the romantic spirit, and the reader finishes wet, drunk on wine and reeking of cigarettes. At camp: trapped Cassiopeia; belted Orion; Venus the false star, even then. Read this in the rain while listening to Chopin.
Part two is a disconnected liaison described by Seidman as a “white yacht on ‘fractaled’ ultramarine.” It could also be described as free jazz. This section is aggressive, but it is a respondent aggression, admiring a stand against oppression — even the oppression of convention. “I could not say I had quit the stoop,” Seidman writes. “Jew Ganz, my hero, wrestling bully Joey.” Read part two while listening to Ornette Coleman.
Part three is poetry akin to psychosexual fixations, and somehow very clever in the vein of Ozzy Osbourne rhyming “masses” with “masses” in the song “War Pigs.”
I mean: I would be dead
had not my grandparents
fled in 1906
Read part three while listening to Black Sabbath.
In part four, the reader gets the styling of a hip-hop video, where butt-shaking dance moves are as important as the lyricism, if not more important. It agglutinates. It’s catchy. It gets stuck in your craw. Read part four while listening to that song about how someone else’s “milkshake is better than yours.”
Part five is a return to romanticism; however, it has been filtered through the free jazz of part two, the Ozcratic irony of part three and the postage- stamped “singability” of part four. By the end of part five, the reader should be trying to sing his or her own composition.
Under God the sun
forgive the pun
shtik infects the
According to poet David Ignatow, “Hugh Seidman is the American Poet whose work is closest to ‘Trilce’ by César Vallejo, the greatest of South American Poets.” Seidman’s work has appeared beside Allen Ginsberg, Michael Heller and Harvey Shapiro in “Not One of Them in Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity,” a book by poet, critic and Koret Jewish Book Award Finalist Norman Finkelstein. At the very end of “Somebody Stand Up and Sing,” the poet recalls, “Each atom of the body/from the start of the stars,” as if he were flipping through a personal, private collection of familial black-and-white photographs that could belong to anyone. From Ornette Coleman to Ozzy Osbourne, everything in this poet’s care is relevant, everything is important, everything is immortal.
Nowhere to sit under
the Zion noon
before Nat’s grave
small stones put on
for why one weeps or
Thomas Wappat is a freelance writer who currently lives in Brooklyn.