The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 15, 2010

Jonathan Galassi: Poetry Inhales the Atmosphere

Throughout the month, FSG publisher, poet, and translator Jonathan Galassi will be adding his thoughts on various aspects of the poetry world.

The value of the work accrues over time. What Frederick Seidel wrote thirty, forty years ago, is still as fresh, as relevant, as current as what he wrote yesterday. It matures like wine; it becomes more meaningful over time. We still read Keats's poems with wonder two hundred years later. Poetry is out of time in that way: a great poem maintains its relevance.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That's Dickens, and that's prose, but these phrases encapsulate an era, and there's magic there. The poetry inhales the atmosphere and preserves it. Like a time capsule.

That's certainly true of Seidel. George Packer said the other day, "Seidel is the poet of our time." Seidel's attitude and way of expressing things encapsulates how we feel. It's like Baudelaire. It exudes our moment.

Related: Frederick Seidel reading "The Owl You Heard"


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