Frederick Seidel Louise Bogan - Essay

Louise Bogan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "Final Solutions" … the satiric involvement of a young poet … with his time and place is total. Like Juvenal, Swift, and John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (at his best), Seidel is angry, and his anger, ultimately, is directed less against evils apparent in this or that person or society than against the basic stupidities and depravities of mankind itself. Seidel is in earnest. He radiates heat. It is apparent that he has asked himself frightful questions and has not dodged the implications of their equally frightful answers. He presents his own anguish less often than he describes the suffering of a number of protagonists who reveal themselves fragmentarily in monologues—always at some high pitch of terror, ecstasy, or despair. These men and women (and a single ghost) speak, more often than not, in formal stanzas. Seidel instinctively goes over into strictly controlled (although uneven) metre and into difficult rhyming as his emotion gathers force; he does not miss an effect. The terrifying aspects of the experiences he describes are outlined with clinical precision by means of the rightness of his epithets and of his nouns and verbs, which can be tender as well as shocking. He is a master of metaphor. And each poem is compressed straight up to, and sometimes beyond, the limits of comprehensibility—not as a trick but for a purpose. The scenes are those of the actual world…. The poems concerned with delirium are done from the outside. And there is not a trace, throughout the book, of the usual slick response of cold coarseness or gratuitous brutality.

Whether or not Seidel's talent will come into the full power it now suggests it is impossible to predict. But how extraordinary if it should. (pp. 211-12)

Louise Bogan, "Verse: 'Final Solutions'," in The New Yorker (© 1963 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. XXXIX, No. 34, October 12, 1963, pp. 211-12.