Frederick Seidel Denis Donoghue - Essay

Denis Donoghue

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frederick Seidel has long been saving up for Sunrise, a collection of thirty-one short or fairly short poems, one of them reprinted from his earlier book Final Solutions (1963) as if to indicate that the way to perfection does not necessarily run, as Pater thought it did, through a sequence of disgusts. Seidel is still loyal to his first book, as well he may be. Even then he had a gift of style, though in some poems it seemed mostly a gift of Robert Lowell's style….

Many of Seidel's new poems are on public themes…. The poems are all formidably inventive, and some of them are as moving as their themes suggest they should be. But I am not always as sure as I would like to be that Seidel has distinguished between face value and true value. He writes of motorcyclists with a certain metallic sheen more appropriate to their vehicles. I found it hard to take the poem about Antonioni seriously, since I recall Zabriskie Point as a vain and bloated film. I don't need to be persuaded that Robert Kennedy was in some respects heroic, but was it really possible, even in RFK's America, to "love politics for its mind"? Some of Seidel's poems are insecure in their attitudes. A remarkably gifted and serious poet, he gives me the impression, in some poems, of having lost or given up his confidence in the official forms seriousness has been supposed to take….

Despite that, Sunrise is an even stronger...

(The entire section is 467 words.)