Ooga-Booga: Poems

Ooga-Booga: Poems

by Frederick Seidel

Paperback(First Edition)

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"The best American poet writing today"*

"The title itself—a parody of a threat, something the monster under the bed might grunt—manages to capture the weird dialectic of Mr. Seidel's black comedy: He is scary, but funny, but still scary . . . You would have go back to confessional masters like Lowell and Berryman to find poetry as daringly self-revealing, as risky and compelling, as the best of Frederick Seidel's." —*Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun

"The poems in Ooga-Booga are [Seidel's] richest yet and read like no one else's: They're surreal without being especially difficult, and utterly unpretentious, suffused with the peculiar American loneliness of Raymond Chandler . . . [The poem ‘Barbados'] is the loveliest Seidel has written to date, and he's perfected the subtle rhythms and rhymes that rocket the stanzas forward like his Ducati 916 SPS. While I can think of a more likable book of poems, I can scarcely imagine a better one." —Alex Halberstadt, New York magazine

"[Ooga-Booga is] as beguiling and magisterial as anything [Seidel] has written. I can't decide whether Seidel has more in common with Philip Larkin or John Ashbery, but the fact that he can prompt such a bizarre question is more revealing than any possible answer." —Joel Brouwer, The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374530976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/30/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 796,372
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.27(d)

About the Author

Frederick Seidel's previous books of poems include The Cosmos Trilogy; Final Solutions; Sunrise; These Days; and Poems, 1959–1979. He received the 2002 PEN/Voelker Award for Poetry.

Read an Excerpt


By Frederick Seidel

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2006 Frederick Seidel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-53097-6



    Huntsman indeed is gone from Savile Row,
    And Mr. Hall, the head cutter.
    The red hunt coat Hall cut for me was utter
    Red melton cloth thick as a carpet, cut just so.
    One time I wore it riding my red Ducati racer — what a show! —
    Matched exotics like a pair of lovely red egrets.
    London once seemed the epitome of no regrets
    And the old excellence one used to know
    Of the chased-down fox bleeding its stink across the snow.

    We follow blindly, clad in coats of pink,
    A beast whose nature is to run and stink.
    I am civilized in my pink but
    Civilized is about having stuff.
    The red coats are called "pinks." Too much is almost enough.
    No one knows why they are. I parade in the air
    With my stuff and watch the disappearing scut
    Of a deer. I am civilized but
    Civilized life is actually about too much.

    I parade in the air
    And wait for the New Year
    That then will, then will disappear.
    I am trying not to care.
    I am not able not to.
    A short erect tail
    Winks across the winter field.
    All will be revealed.
    I am in a winter field.

    They really are everywhere.
    They crawl around in one's intimate hair.
    They spread disease and despair.
    They rape and pillage
    In the middle of Sag Harbor Village.
    They ferry Lyme disease.
    The hunters' guns bring them to their knees.
    In Paris I used to call the Sri Lankan servants "Shrees."
    I am not able not to.

    Winter, spring, Baghdad, fall,
    Venery is written all
    Over me like a rash,
    Hair and the gash,
    But also the Lehrer NewsHour and a wood fire and Bach.
    A short erect tail
    Winks across the killing field.
    All will be revealed.
    I am in a killing field.

    I remember the chasse à courre in the forest in the Cher.
    I remember the English thoroughbreds ridden by the frogs.
    I remember the weeping stag cornered by the dogs.
    The stag at bay in the pond literally shed a tear.
    A hunt servant in a tricorn hat waded out to cut its throat.
    Nelson Aldrich on his horse vomited watching this.
    The huntsman's heraldic horn sounded the hallali.
    The tune that cuts off the head. L'hallali!
    Back to the château to drink the blood. L'hallali!

    I am in Paris being introduced at Billy's,
    1960, Avenue Paul-Valéry.
    One of her beautiful imported English Lillys or Millys
    Is walking around on her knees.
    It is rather like that line of Paul Valéry's.
    Now get down on all fours, please.
    We are ministers of state and then there is me chez Billy.
    Deer garter-belt across our field of vision
    And stand there waiting for our decision.

    Our only decision was how to cook the venison.
    I am civilized but
    I see the silence
    And write the words for the thought-balloon.
    When the woods are the color of a macaroon,
    Deer, death is near.
    I write about its looks in my books.
    I write disappearing scut.
    I write rut.

    The title is Kill Poetry,
    And in the book poetry kills.
    In the poem the stag at bay weeps, literally.
    Kill poetry is the hallali on Avenue Paul-Valéry.
    Get rid of poetry. Kill poetry.
    Label on a vial of pills. Warning: Kill kill kill kills.
    Its title is Kill Poem,
    From the Book of Kills.
    The antlered heads are mounted weeping all around the walls.

    John F. Kennedy is mounted weeping on the wall.
    His weeping brother Robert weeps nearby.
    Martin Luther King, at bay in Memphis, exhausted, starts to cry.
    His antlered head is mounted weeping on the wall.
    Too much is almost enough, for crying out loud!
    Bobby Kennedy announces to a nighttime crowd
    That King has died, and then quotes Aeschylus, and then is killed.
    Kill kill kill kills, appalls,
    The American trophies covered in tears that deck the American halls.


    And when the doctor told me that I could have died.
    And when I climbed up from the subway to the day outside.
    White summer clouds were boiling in the trees.
    I felt like falling to my knees.
    Stand clear of the closing doors, please! Stand clear of the closing doors, please!

    And when the camel knelt to let me mount it.
    Winged angels knelt in silhouette
    To worship at the altar made of blue
    That the sun was fastened to.
    It all came down to you. It all comes down to you.

    In New York City "kneeling" buses kneel for the disabled.
    My camel kneels. We fly into the desert.
    I flee in terror to my tranquilizer the Sahara.
    I stroll slowly down sweet Broadway.
    It is as you say. We are here to pray.


    I often go to bed with a book
    And immediately turn out the light.
    I wake in the morning and brush and dress and go to the desk and write.
    I always put my arm in the right sleeve before I slip into the left.
    I always put on my left shoe first and then I put on the right.

    I happen right now
    To be walking the dogs in the dangerous park at night,
    Which is dangerous, which I do not like,
    But I am delighted, my dog walk is a delight.
    I am right-handed but mostly I am not thinking.

    A man can go to sleep one night and never wake up that he knows of.
    A man can walk down a Baghdad street and never walk another drop.
    A man can be at his publisher's and drop dead on the way to the men's room.
    A poet can develop frontotemporal dementia.
    A flavorful man can, and then he is not.

    The call girls who came to our separate rooms were actually lovely.
    Weren't they shocked that their customers were so illegally young?
    Mine gently asked me what I wanted to do. Sin is Behovely.
    Just then the phone rang —
    Her friend checking if she was safe with the young Rambo, Rimbaud.

    I am pursuing you, life, to the ends of the earth across a Sahara of tablecloth.
    I look around the restaurant for breath.
    I stuff my ears to sail past the siren song of the rocks.
    The violin of your eyes
    Is listening gently.


    A rapist's kisses tear the leaves off.
    The world looks so white on the white pillow.
    I think I know you. I don't think so.

    Winter is wearing summer but it wants to undress for you, Fred.
    Oh my God. Takes off the lovely summer frock
    And lies down on the bed naked
    Freezing white, so we can make death.

    Joel and I were having lunch at Fred's,
    The restaurant on the ninth floor of Barneys
    Where Joel likes to eat when he is in New York,
    Who had just landed, and when I ask him what astonishment

    He is carrying around with him this time,
    He takes out of his jacket pocket
    A beige pochette,
    And out pops a stupefying diamond ring I know from Paris.

    It opens its big eye.
    It went nonstop to Florida in his pocket on the plane.
    Now returns with a stop in Manhattan to the JAR safe, Place Vendôme.
    I have to try it on.

    It is incredible what travels
    Unprotected in that pocket through the time zones.
    I look down at my finger
    And field-trip an alternate universe.

    Don't I know you? I don't think so. It is not for sale.
    Diane von Furstenberg in those sweet bygone days
    Got it in her head I had to meet her friend
    The jeweler to the stars.

    Two hummingbirds hummed across the Pont des Arts,
    And through the cour du Louvre, to Joel's JAR.
    At her old apartment at 12, Rue de Seine,
    We lived like hummingbirds on nectar and oxygen.


    Shirts wear themselves out being worn.
    Suits fit perfectly,
    But a man does
    Decades of push-ups and no longer fits.
    I take myself out to dinner.
    It is a joy to sit alone
    Without a book.
    I use myself up being fine while I dine.
    I am a result of the concierge at the Carlyle.
    I order a bottle of Bordeaux.
    I am a boulevard of elegance
    In my well-known restaurants.

    The moon comes over to my table.
    Everything about her is typical.
    I like the way she speaks to me.
    Everything about me is bespoke.
    You are not
    Known, and you are not no one.
    I remember you from before.
    Sometimes I don't go out till the end of the day.
    I simply forget till
    I rush out, afraid the day will end.
    Every sidewalk tree is desperate
    For someone.

    The desert at this time of year
    Is troops in desert camouflage.
    Bring in the unmanned drones.
    I dine with my Carlyle smile.
    She tells me spring will come.
    The moon stops by my table
    To tell me.
    I will cut your heart out
    And drink the rubies and eat the coral.
    I like the female for its coral.
    I go to Carnegie Hall
    To make her open her mouth onstage and scream.


    I once loved,
    I thought I would be loved,
    But I wasn't loved.
    I wasn't loved for the only reason that matters —
    It was not to be.
    I unbuttoned my white gloves and stripped each off.
    I set aside my gold-knobbed cane.
    I picked up this pen ...
    And thought how many other men
    Had smelled the rose in the bud vase
    And lifted a fountain pen,
    And lifted a mountain ...
    And put the shotgun in their mouth,
    And noticed that their hunting dog was pointing.


    What could be more pleasant than talking about people dying,
    And doctors really trying,
    On a winter afternoon
    At the Carlyle Hotel, in our cocoon?
    We also will be dying one day soon.

    Dr. Holly Andersen has a vodka cosmopolitan,
    And has another, and becomes positively Neapolitan,
    The moon warbling a song about the sun,
    Sitting on a sofa at the Carlyle,
    Staying stylishly alive for a while.

    Her spirited loveliness
    Does cause some distress.
    She makes my urbanity undress.
    I present symptoms that express
    An underlying happiness in the face of the beautiful emptiness.

    She lost a very sick patient she especially cared about.
    The man died on the table. It wasn't a matter of feeling any guilt or doubt.
    Something about a doctor who can cure, or anyway try,
    But can also cry,
    Is some sort of ultimate lullaby, and lie.


    I spend most of my time not dying.
    That's what living is for.
    I climb on a motorcycle.
    I climb on a cloud and rain.
    I climb on a woman I love.
    I repeat my themes.

    Here I am in Bologna again.
    Here I go again.
    Here I go again, getting happier and happier.
    I climb on a log
    Torpedoing toward the falls.
    Basically, it sticks out of me.

    At the factory,
    The racer being made for me
    Is not ready, but is getting deadly.
    I am here to see it being born.
    It is snowing in Milan, the TV says.
    They close one airport, then both.

    The Lord is my shepherd and the Director of Superbike Racing.
    He buzzes me through three layers of security
    To the innermost secret sanctum of the racing department
    Where I will breathe my last.
    Trains are delayed.
    The Florence sky is falling snow.

    Tonight Bologna is fog.
    This afternoon, there it was,
    With all the mechanics who are making it around it.
    It stood on a sort of altar.
    I stood in a sort of fog,
    Taking digital photographs of my death.


Excerpted from Ooga-Booga by Frederick Seidel. Copyright © 2006 Frederick Seidel. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Kill Poem,
From Nijinsky's Diary,
On Being Debonair,
Homage to Pessoa,
For Holly Andersen,
A Red Flower,
Dick and Fred,
New Year's Day, 2004,
The Italian Girl,
The Big Golconda Diamond,
What Are Movies For?,
The Owl You Heard,
E-mail from an Owl,
White Butterflies,
The Castle in the Mountains,
A Fresh Stick of Chewing Gum,
Dante's Beatrice,
At a Factory in Italy,
France for Boys,
Grandson Born Dead,
East Hampton Airport,
A White Tiger,
To Die For,
Climbing Everest,
Organized Religion,
Mother Nature,
Broadway Melody,
Love Song,
Breast Cancer,
Casanova Getting Older,
Il Duce,
I Am Siam,
The Big Jet,
The Black-Eyed Virgins,
Song: "The Swollen River Overthrows Its Banks",
Drinking in the Daytime,
The Bush Administration,
The Death of the Shah,
Also by Frederick Seidel,

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