August 18, 2008

Review: Poemergency Room by Paul Siegell

Before I even held Paul Siegell's Poemergency Room in my hands I was impressed by him; if anyone wants you (yes, you) to read their book, by god, it's Paul Siegell. The Facebook group alone for his book has over 700 members and is constantly being updated with events, news, and articles.

There is a high level of energy here -- sometimes an almost manic one. Siegell bounces from word to word, line to line with a fantastic momentum, and this momentum often manifests in repetition emphasized by italics or capital letters. His poetry feels as though it almost literally pulls you from one line to the next, from one poem to another.

Poemergency Room is full of short statements, fancy line-work, and carmen figuratum or shape poems. The language is a mix of the high and low cultures, making a pop culture reference juxtaposed with a literary one. There are many places where Siegell pulls this mix off brilliantly.

Siegell utilizes the visual in his poetry throughout Poemergency Room -- and again, there are places where this works to his advantage - the poem Zephyr Kayak Embryo is a lovely example of this - and others where I personally do not feel as though the visual added to the poem.

All his poems do not contain this shaping element to them, however. In fact, one of the pieces I came back to a number of times in the book, a found poem titled Suicide in the Subway, is simply centered on the page, so I was not left feeling that Siegell relies too heavily on the visual.

One of the things I appreciate about Siegell's writing is his willingness to take his chosen style and push it to its limits. Pushing his chosen style as far as he can does, every so often, make his writing uneven, but it is clear that he is conscious of what he does and that he takes care in crafting his work in such a way that he steps up to the boundary, and sometimes even beyond it. I firmly believe that it is only by doing this that a writer may discover what they are truly capable of in their craft.

Siegell’s book was a crash course for me in his style. I am very glad I got the chance to read it. Poemergency Room may not be the best place to start if you are not familiar with the style that Siegell works with (to get an introduction, I might point a Weave reader to Coconut Poetry, who, Google has revealed, published Siegell in their 10th issue), but for anyone who is perhaps even a little bit familiar with his style, Siegell’s book is a fun ride.

Poemergency Room by Paul Siegell was published by Otoliths in 2008 and may be purchased here
Paul's website, where you can also order copies directly from him, may be found at


  1. I'm intrigued:) Moving from pop culture to literary references sounds like my groove, but the shape poems usually annoy me- odd considering I'm a visual artist. I'll definitely have to give this a look.

  2. Paul Siegell is a poet with many styles, though. One style doesn't define him. He'll hit you with the "Suicide in the Subway" poem and the "Hecanbe" poem, poems that are considered the "typical" poem in set up and straight talk, but then he'll throw "the hyperventilating hyphen" and "The Double-O Poem..." your way and it leaves me thinking: What have I been missing when it comes to poetry

  3. And oh, this is what I have been missing in poetry. All poem books are the same to me. I read them and I feel like I read them all, but with Paul Siegell's "Poemergency," it's something I keep on hand to go back to for inspiration

  4. As a writer I know exactly what it feels like to put your work out there, in hopes that someone will discover it and love it as much as you enjoy crafting it. My heartfelt congratulations go out to the man who has done just that, and has garnered such an extensive following by simply introducing the masses to his unique poetry styling.

    Kudos, Paul. Kudos!

  5. Paul Siegel is as good a writer as he is a person. When I met him I immediately knew he should be part of The Emerging Writer's Series at Book Corner. His work, extraordinary/moving/fresh is going to change how people look at words and how they look at poetry.

  6. Boggled down by full time grad school, Philly Fringe, workshop, etc. I left off one L. Forgive me.


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