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Mason on Seidel


Wyatt Mason’s weekend reads are part of the rhythm of my life, but this week’s offering is a particular delight. Start with his post from Friday, Frederick Seidel, “A Poet of Great Innocence” and continue to his superlative profile of Seidel in the pages of tomorrow’s New York Times Magazine, in which you’ll find this amazing passage:

his verses seem to possess a quality “so upsetting that some people… essentially they want to obliterate you.” I asked him if he had a sense of what that quality was. “I think it’s an unembarrassed tone… a calmly unembarrassed tone while saying something ‘unacceptable.’ The word unacceptable of course has quotes around it. They are unapologetic, the poems are— I am— the tone is.”

It’s interesting to contemplate Seidel paired with his rough contemporary Robert Pirsig–two significant writers of the last century who place value in and take inspiration from motorcycles. Seidel favors a Ducati 916, Pirsig a BMW R60, but they share something bordering on a death wish. And Seidel’s work mingles dark flashes of eccentricity with its cultural conservatism. Wyatt’s interview-essay serves a laudable purpose, and that, of course, is to provoke us to read more of the magnificent but at times oddly dark writings of “the poet laureate of high louche.”

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