Listen to This Poet. Really, Listen.

Poetry

By Thomas Wappat

Published March 18, 2005, issue of March 18, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘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

Solomon

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

blood

though it’s

anyone’s fiction

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.

Amen. Amen.

Nowhere to sit under

the Zion noon

before Nat’s grave

Dandelions.

small stones put on

the footstone,

for why one weeps or

not.

Thomas Wappat is a freelance writer who currently lives in Brooklyn.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.