Robert Seydel: “Out of context, discovered, at once obscure and revealing”

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December 29th, 2014


(Review) A Picture Is Always a Book by Robert Seydel


A Picture Is Always a Book by Robert Seydel


Originally published December 29, 2014


Out of context, A Picture Is Always a Book is a collection of 70-something typewritten poems on yellowed pieces of paper colored with crayons and paints, their words sometimes smashed in prose blocks, sometimes spread across the page with dashes of color and ghostly stick figures, abstract shapes, and star stamps scattered between them.

The text itself varies wildly. While mostly given to experimental sentence structures that evade meaning in the same moment they begin to approach it, Seydel’s sentences bounce from the plainspoken—

What i imagine is a bench to sit on.

to the surreal—

An air that is of bird & of duffballs & rabbits, & an air simultaneously of porridge.

to nonsensical and linebroken—

& i wld go as
a cat who goes
like elephant
& even where
wood crackles
i am knot
& it is night

all in the space of a single page, in this case titled “(early dec.).” The poems read like the ravings of a person who is at once very disconnected from reality and very attentive to whatever she perceives instead of reality. The childlike drawings that dot the pages, the rips and repairs with tape that are retained in the facsimiles, the wavery, imperfectly aligned typewriter, the references to mundane activities like working at the bank and walking the streets of Queens—all of these coalesce to give us the sense of an outsider artist pounding out mildly brilliant pages that remain undiscovered for years until she dies and a relative finds them packed away in an old chest somewhere.

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