March 11, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
On April 8th, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking back at the work Seidel has published in The Paris Review throughout his career.
“Dayley Island” is the first poem Frederick Seidel published in The Paris Review—it appeared in our twenty-sixth issue, from Summer/Fall 1961, alongside work by Norman Mailer, Thom Gunn, Malcolm Lowry, and Tom Keogh, among many others; there were also interviews with Ilya Ehrenburg and Marianne Moore. (“I have a passion for rhythm and accent, so blundered into versifying.”)
In the sumptuousness of a line like “My slippers / exhale lamé,” “Dayley Island” bears the traces of what would become, to me, a Seidel hallmark: a certain brand of knowing, luxurious weariness. The poem also makes elegant use of one of my all-time favorite verbs, the arrantly unpoetic “winterize.”
But what’s it about, you ask? Well, far be it for me to say. But a brief round of Googling did reveal this amusingly compact summary, from a 1963 edition of The Virginia Quarterly Review: “In ‘Dayley Island’ the slaughter of rabbits on a Maine coastal island becomes associated in the mind of an aging refugee woman psychiatrist with the extermination of her family by Nazi hands.” Sounds like something to add to your Netflix queue. The VQR also notes, approvingly, that “some readers may feel … their decorum outraged” by Seidel’s poems.
Gulls spiral high above
The porch tiles and my gulf-green,
Cliff-hanging lawn, with their
Out-of-breath wail, as
Dawn catches the silver ball
Set in the dried up bird bath
To scare the gulls. My slippers
I was egged on by old age—
To sell that house,
Winterize this house,
Give up my practice...