Ooga-Booga Poems

Frederick Seidel

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

112 Pages



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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A Griffin Poetry Prize Finalist
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

The poems in Ooga-Booga are about a youthful slave owner and his aging slave, and both are the same man. This is a collection from "the most frightening American poet ever" (Calvin Bedient, Boston Review).


Praise for Ooga-Booga

"Having delivered his fin-de-siecle masterpiece, The Cosmos Trilogy, in 2003, Seidel could be forgiven for taking it easy this time out, but he needn't be cut any slack: These poems are as beguiling and magisterial as anything the septuagenarian jet-setter 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 . . . I hope Seidel wears a helmet while riding his beloved Ducati; it would be intolerable to see this great strange brain spilled."—Joel Brouwer, The New York Times Book Review

"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 . . . 'Barbados' is the loveliest [poem] Seidel has written to date, and he's perfected the subtle rhythms and rhymes that rocket the stanzas forward like his Ducati 916SPS. 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, with its playfully scary title and truly frightening contents, is Frederick Seidel's ninth and best book. It is also a sort of culmination, bringing to a pitch of skill and outrageous traits present in his work from the beginning."—Benjamin Kunkel, Harper's Magazine

"Frederick Seidel is a ghoul, and he has produced this nascent century's finest collection of English poems . . . Idiosyncratic motifs recur throughout Seidel's later volumes—car alarms, Ducati bikes, presidents, Congo crocodiles, asteroids, penises, antlers, allusions to Pound's Canto 83, the lines ‘I don't believe in anything, I do / Believe in you'—as if the exercise of his deceptively sing-song-y ear demanded a singularly honed continuity. These obsessions are fruited in Ooga-Booga, a title designed to rub our noses in the twentieth century. The phrase occurs in the book's finest poem. ‘Barbados,' whose opening stanza every soi-disant avant-gardiste should have by heart . . . It should be impossible to write poems that simultaneously recall Ashbery, Lowell, and Larkin—probably the three most influential British and American poets of the postwar period . . . Seidel manages to assimilate his precursors while sounding sui generis . . . Like Larkin, this is the poetry liberalism deserves toxic enough to kill insects, seeing things as they are, without uplift or piety—seeing each amoral, gibbering detail, cataloguing each fainting patron at history's Grand Guignol. As Cal Bedient has argued, citing Barthes, Seidel's theater is reality ‘assigned an emphatic accent.' And this accentual dialectics, enormously assured, is the source of Seidel's artistry: while kicking over modernity's vilest rocks, he hums a catchy tune, picking up crawling things while motorizing the vernacular. His lines fairly writhe with interest, piling shock upon shock before they resolve in a kind of sick lyricism . . . No one else sounds like this."—Michael Robbins, Chicago Review

"On the way to the Griffin Prize poetry reading the other night, I fell in with a fellow from Pakistan who said, ‘In my country, even if they have written 100 books, poets are always poor. Publishers are always cheating them, saying that their books did not sell' . . . The main reason I went to the reading this year was to meet Frederick Seidel. His book, Ooga-Booga, is the best verse out of the United States since whatever. I brought my copy of Ooga with me. I have never sought the signature of another author before, which is just how good I think he is. Alas, Seidel was absent."—Joe Fiorito, The Toronto Star

"[T]his new collection has all the usual Seidel subjects, from fox hunts to violins to Paris and politics (Seidel even confesses twice, 'I repeat themes')—but this doesn't diminish the intensity, skill, or bravery of his masterfully shocking style of poetic acrobatics . . . [Some poems] stunningly throw open windows of thought by allowing disparate elements to unite in enlightening ways . . . [M]ost would be hard-pressed to disagree with his work's importance and originality, or deny his artistic courage. We need more poets like Seidel to rub us the wrong way, and induce us to think critically about our history, leaders, and actions."—Janet St. John, Booklist

"The voices in Seidel's latest collection are sophisticated, wealthy, urbane, decadent, acerbic, and terminally unsatisfied ('I spend most of my time not dying'). Globetrotting, thrill-seeking, but insecure, they're unable to suppress the thoughts of failed love and mortality that stubbornly undermine their material obsessions ('Civilization is about having stuff') and escapist preoccupations ('You need a danger to be safe in'). They are destined to stay 'stylishly alive for awhile,' and, as voices of privilege and power, would not be expected to elicit much sympathy, but Seidel, whose poetry has been striking nerves since his first collection, Final Solutions, manages to expose their human vulnerabilities with psychological insight and candor. Though the unfashionable sensibilities of the fashionable will not charm everyone ('I sense your disdain, darling./ I share it'), Seidel's satiric, biting, and emotionally complex poems are playfully over the top—playful in the way that one might play with sharp objects—and merit close attention."—Fred Muratori, Library Journal


Kill Poem
From Nijinsky's Diary
On Being Debonair
Homage to Pessoa
For Holly Andersen
Fog 16
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

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Frederick Seidel

  • 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.

  • Frederick Seidel © Nancy Crampton