“For Holly Andersen”
March 25, 2014 | by Lorin Stein
On April 8, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking at Seidel’s poems.
Over the weekend, I turned on Studio 360. A cardiologist was describing the health benefits of dance—and this cardiologist was none other than Holly Andersen, hero of a great poem by Frederick Seidel, from his 2006 collection, Ooga-Booga. Dr. Andersen is also the dedicatee of the poem. I guess you could say she is its muse, but hero is the better word. This is a poem about heroism: doing your job in the face of death. It happens also to be a love poem, for in Seidel’s work love and admiration are rarely far apart. I never have a drink at the Carlyle Hotel without thinking of the first lines, and I think of the last lines much more often than that.
Seidel has never given a public reading, but he has made several recordings of his poems, including this one. I played it as soon as the segment was over.
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 Anderson 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.