Harry Ransom Center acquires Frederick Seidel’s notes, unfinished poetry

Mariane Gutierrez

The Harry Ransom Center recently obtained the notes and unfinished works of Frederick Seidel, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet.

Poet Jonathan Galassi said Seidel, now 83 years old, writes poems that focus on viewing contemporary life through an emotional lens. Stephen Enniss, the Harry Ransom Center director, said the archives can now be viewed in the center. 

“Fred’s poetry presents a witty kind of gallows humor view of contemporary life,” said Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. “It makes fun of the foibles, pretensions, pleasures and fears of the old liberal world he belongs to. It’s deeply clever, funny and sad all at once.”

Enniss said the works give insight to how a private man writes poetry. He said they acquired the archives from Seidel directly.

“The archive contains pocket diaries, personal photographs and handwritten notes that will be available for study to future researchers,” Enniss said. “Frederick Seidel’s poetry reflects both the beautiful and the ugly in contemporary life, and he has given us a body of work that future readers will turn to better understand our time.”

Seidel was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where he produced books of his poetry containing more than 50 years of writing, according to a press release published by nonprofit art magazine Sightlines.

Galassi said Seidel often keeps to himself and dedicates most of his time to writing poetry.

“Fred is a solitary by nature, yet friendly and cheerful with most people he meets,” Galassi said. “He spends most of his time at his desk working on poems. He’s devoted to his children and a small circle of close friends.”

Seidel also shows his personality in his writing by detailing life through personal experiences and his firm love for human nature, Galassi said.

“(Seidel) is a like a Silver Age Latin poet — sophisticated and farseeing, with a deep sense of pathos and not-quite concealed deep love of humanity,” Galassi said.

Journalism freshman Sloane Wick said she can interact with Seidel through these archives as they provide a sense of intimacy and revelation of character.

“As a writer, I know the works that show who I truly am are often those I am writing for myself,” Wick said. “Now, I can interact with a renowned writer in a more personal way, and (it) takes away the distance between audience and author.”