In the latest issue:

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Short Cuts: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Mrs Oliphant

Tom Crewe

Tippett’s Knack

Philip Clark

At Tate Modern: Steve McQueen

Colin Grant

Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery

Churchill’s Cook

Rosemary Hill

The ‘Batrachomyomachia’

Ange Mlinko

On Dorothea Lange

Joanna Biggs

Paid to Race

Jon Day

Poem: ‘Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90’

August Kleinzahler

The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley

Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

Diary: Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

Worst When It’s PoetryFrederick Seidel
Close
Close
Vol. 38 No. 9 · 5 May 2016
Poem

Worst When It’s Poetry

Frederick Seidel

307 words

Here’s a naked fellow dressed up in some clothes,
Arrogantly flaunting what he actually loathes –
The Savile Row swagger and the nonchalant pose!
He’s who he isn’t and he makes sure it shows.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I’m thinking, what would mother do?
And what would Kafka if he knew?
Emily Dickinson was Nobody, too!

I’d say the day looks like there’s nothing new.
It’s simply someone the sky is talking to.
Sprinklers on Central Park’s Great Lawn are hissing mist,
A smell simply too delicious to exist.

Sweet, sweet, sweet! You drown in it, I’ve drowned.
The currents undersea wave our hearts around.
You’ll be so happy that I’m cured of snoring and now I snore
No more.

There’s an Emily I met downtown recently.
Dante’s Beatrice suddenly appeared to me!
I don’t know her last name.
Dante famously never was the same.

A maiden I don’t know transfigured me
In one brief moment for eternity.
From one brief meeting with someone so young,
Dante was translated to a higher sphere and left our days of dung.

It’s my opinion my friend Michael Hofmann is a wizard.
Every page of German, Hofmann eats a gizzard,
Translates the untranslatable
Words, words, words.

Worst when it’s poetry –
But even Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch.
Mandelstam could absolutely not be –
Then Clarence Brown and Merwin came along and did.

I’m thinking green, but the English-speaking sky is blue.
I tell you what I’m going to do.
They tell me what they’re going to do.
Here’s what my words will do today.

The words are at the other end.
I’ll have to drive.
I’ll take the car.
It isn’t far. That’s where they are.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences