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This review is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

All Too Quotable frederick seidel, Nice Weather (Faber) £14.99

A terrible thing has happened to me. I have begun to doubt Frederick Seidel. Maybe it's because he says the same thing over and over - acknowledging pertly, in 'School Days', that 'Those of you who know / What I'm talking about / Can stop reading'. He evokes repeatedly a type of fundamental energy - indomitable, cruel, beautiful - which underwrites the excrescences of politics, sex and capitalism; his trademark couplets both mock and indulge our desire for explanation, for cultural analysis. (Poetic form reduced to a brutal minimum: sing-song, the insistence on an instance.) 'Arabia' moves from the usual confession of sexual damage - 'Sex tropics as a way to not be dead. / I don't know who we are except in bed' - to a big statement about America:

America keeps waiting to begin.
It's sunrise dripping from my chin.
It looks like spring out there on Broadway meant
Barack Obama to be president.

This is virtuosic - the typically explosive enjambment, the play with the phrase 'it looks like spring'. While much of the US goes on wondering if Barack Obama is even American, Seidel reveals his exotic name to be actually iambic.

Seidel gives us the engaged, big-issue verse we want, but without the requisite seriousness - even as the metre and rhyme, brokenly traditional, provide a skewed authority. Many things - institutions, feelings, poems - are unreal, he tells us, but here's something ...

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