The Operating System and Liminal Lab

POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: DAY 21:: David King on Frederick Seidel

On Frederick Seidel
People often ask me what I’m reading, who I’m reading, who I like. My answer is always the same. I say nothing. I say nothing to protect them. I say nothing, like a hero. The problem I find is that the people who ask me what I’m reading, who I’m reading and who I like aren’t at rock bottom. They aren’t in dire need of an artistic overhaul. They aren’t where I was when I first experienced Frederick Seidel’s Ooga-Booga. They’re just asking, often, to be polite, which is the worst kind of asking.
In August of 2009, everything was going wrong. The creative world in which I
was consumed was turning indie. Vegan. It was going soft, because to walk around with a hard-on in one’s head was impolite. The world around me was craving sterility. Political correctness of the mind and body was becoming impotent-making. I was growing sleepless with softness. I started to feel like the world was slowly denying my human right to tear. PC thought police had waged war inside my head with Nerf truncheons.
What I found in Ooga-Booga was a harsh reality of the mind. I found an
honest viciousness. I found humor in the utterly terrifying. I found terror in the utterly humorous. I found that I was terrified to find certain things funny. I found that my body would force a laugh to conceal a multitude of other emotions. But most importantly, I found that all of this could be done with poetry.
The magical power of Seidel’s poetry, besides its often delightfully indecorous language and subject matter, is that nothing is wasted. What seems like excess is not
excess at all. Everything has its purpose, especially those lines that seem to say nothing— those lines that seem to do nothing but rhyme.
In a 2009 interview with the Paris Review, Seidel responded to a question regarding his use of monorhyme: “…The rhymes say, The subject isn’t the subject. Don’t be fooled.”  Well then.
The tigers are field dressed where they fall, who used to roar.
The stomach and lungs are removed with the gore.
Tiger incisors get sold at the store.
Tiger canines ground into powder get sold at the store.
Tiger heart will also restore.
The tigers will end up a tiger skin on the floor.
Especially a rare white tiger is not safe anywhere anymore.
One escaped from the cage when they opened the door.
What horrifying images! What a joy to read! The horrible becomes beautiful,
and in doing so, becomes more horrible still. But just when you think you’ve got Seidel pegged as a beast, he curls up at your feet. He licks your hand.
I used to walk my dog along the beach.
This afternoon I had to put him down.
Jimmy my boy, my sweetyboy, my Jimmy.
It is night, and outside the house, at eleven o’clock,
The lawn sprinklers come on in the rain.
As I write this at my kitchen table, I find I’m falling in love with him all over again. I don’t want to. But I do. I don’t know how not to. I do this every few months. And when I start, I can’t stop until it’s time to start again.
This poem is mine:
Emergency Instructions
The subject line reads North Korea fizzles
Into the Yellow Sea. Parts of the missile drizzles
From the highest point of its arch. Don’t panic.
It was addressed to no one.
It was a love poem.
It was a dick prick in the middle of the night
To see if you were still there, or still awake.
April Thirteenth today. The proud Yankees are back.
You’re going to want to avoid all
Bridges at high noon, speaking of arches.
Cars will literally be parked trying to get out.
This is a love poem waiting in your email,
Wherever that is.
Never open this.
The cars stuck on the bridge will have no passage.
This content has no message.
{Editor’s note: David King might sound familiar to you… and he should! He was recently profiled as part of our AWESOME CREATORS series. I like to say he has a way with words. We are grateful to have him among us… and grateful he didn’t keep the inspiration he receives from the tremendous Frederick Seidel a secret, besides.}

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