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This review is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Cover of Peaches Goes It Alone
Ian PopleIn bursts and jerks
Frederick Seidel, Peaches Goes It Alone (Faber) £10.99
Frederick Seidel has often divided critical opinion. On the one hand, the names of literary big-hitters populate the wrappers of Seidel’s new book; Dan Chiasson, James Lasdun and Hanif Kureishi all offer puffs for Seidel’s work. For such commentators, Seidel’s sheer idiosyncrasy, chutzpah and unique voice give him a singular place in contemporary poetry. On the other hand, there are those, perhaps lower literary lights who find Seidel’s parading of his own wealthy lifestyle and the endless name dropping insufferable. These commentators are likely to find his endless ironizing a kind of preening.

Seidel’s career started in the shadow of Robert Lowell whose mannerisms and attack Seidel seemed to take on, lock, stock and barrel. And there are moments in Peaches Goes It Alone, where Lowell steps off the page. In ‘Trump for President’, Seidel reprises Lowell’s ‘For the Union Dead’; where Lowell has ‘Behind their cage, / yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting / as they cropped up tons of mush and grass / to gouge their underworld garage’, Seidel has ‘Tyrannosaurus rex on tires, gorging horribly, / Fucks the street in bursts and jerks.’ Elsewhere it is Lowell’s aping of Shakespeare’s changing of word class. In ‘Abusers’, Seidel writes, ‘Bring back that old-time Hollywood studio head – bring us his head! / His brutal bulk greenlights the groaning casting couch.’ That ‘greenlights’ set amongst the alliteration seems straight out of Lowell, using the noun as a verb.

But these are anomalies in the general voice of Seidel’s poetry; and it might be that he ...

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