Ugly Duckling Presse

Songs of S.
Songs of S.

Robert Seydel

Poetry/Art | $24 $20
Fall 2014
Buy"The magical qualities of Robert Seydel’s work never cease to astonish me."

Co-published with Siglio Press.

Shortly before he died in 2011, at the age of 51, the reclusive artist Robert Seydel submitted a manuscript of poems to Ugly Duckling Presse. He was uncertain whether to pair these "songs" of one of his many invented personae with (S.'s) collages and drawings, or to seek a publisher that would let the poems stand on their own.

Seydel described his character as follows: "S. occupied an apartment in a house in Amherst, Massachusetts, on a gray street around the corner from Emily Dickinson's manse on Main Street. Not that much is known about him as a person... But he wrote prolifically ... and kept a journal, and made collages and drew as well ... These pictures betray, as do his songs, a certain lack of proficiency, while simultaneously developing a stance of innocence and reverie far from the precincts of the technical. His poems, journals and pictures were found, along with a great library of books, in his apartment, which he abandoned quite suddenly."

This edition presents the cycle of poems in its entirety and uninterrupted, with an afterword by Peter Gizzi, and an additional booklet—"Maybe S."—composed of visual materials that at different times were meant as an accompaniment to the text. 

Excerpt ˇ


I don’t say what I say, I don’t say what,

& that is not Moral. I say what I don’t say, & that

likewise is not Moral.


Bio-graphy is small without a code.

I don’t live, altogether, therefore have no or little code.

Nor do I graph bio, because living little.


It is all very ugly, that way.


Close ˆ

About the Author

Robert Seydel

ROBERT SEYDEL (1960-2011), a professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, was an artist and writer who left behind a layered and original body of work. Seydel’s interrelated series incorporated collage, drawing, photography, narrative and lyric writing, often using various personae and fictional constructs, such as Ruth Greisman whose works are collected in Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011) and A Picture Is Always A Book (Siglio, 2014). Songs of S. is embedded with eclectic knowledge and marked by an unrelenting sense of play.

Other Contributors

Peter Gizzi
Peter Gizzi was born in 1959 and grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He holds degrees from New York University, Brown University, and the State University of New York at Buffalo. His books include Threshold Songs (Wesleyan, 2011), The Outernationale (Wesleyan, 2007), Some Values of Landscape and Weather (2003), Artificial Heart (1998), and Periplum  (1992). He has been poetry editor for The Nation as well as founding co-editor, with Connell McGrath, of o•blék: a journal of language arts. He has also edited The Exact Change Yearbook 1995 (1994) and The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (1998), and has co-edited My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (2008) with Kevin Killian. His chapbook A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me was published by UDP in 2006.

Advance Praise

To my eye, Robert is a poet, by which I mean to say that he has established an idiom and vocabulary and a syntax among his images. He has a poet’s sense of form, a tightly coiled energy of Possibility (in the Dickinsonian sense), a love of metamorphic intensity and of mysteries on the verge of being revealed.—Peter Gizzi
Quotidian, surreal, sublime and revelatory, Seydel's legacy in Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011) is perhaps, most powerfully a record of everyday ecstasies... Perhaps Seydel's enduring accomplishment is the construction of a rich dream world that heightens our perception of ordinary reality. Beyond a story told in poetry and picture, Book of Ruth is itself a way of seeing.—Jocelyn Heaney, LARB
Burrowing into the pop-detritus archive somewhere between Ray Johnson's mail art and Tom Phillips' Humument project, Seydel's serial collage Book of Ruth describes an allusive fantasy about his aunt and alter ego Ruth Greisman, her brother Saul, and their escapades with Joseph Cornell... unfold[ing] in novelistic rhythms.—The New Yorker
Rich with “white magic,” as Joseph Cornell put it, Book of Ruth is an enchanting, mischievous, often deeply moving act of invention and homage.—Maggie Nelson