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Author of the Month: Patty Seyburn

Published: December 2, 2014


Patty Seyburn, associate professor, English

The 92-page volume of poetry Perfecta appeared this year from the Los Angeles-based publishing collective What Books. It follows her three previous volumes Hilarity, (New Issues Press, 2009, winner of the Green Rose Poetry Prize from Western Michigan University), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). Perfecta takes on questions about the desire for time and chance as well as their limitations. Whether at the racetrack or in a cul-de-sac, Seyburn’s work interrogates the flawed self and engage the vagaries of being human with pathos and no small dose of humor. “When I was a kid, I went to the track with my brother. (I don’t know why my parents allowed this but they did),” said the member of the university since 2006. “I’ve always been interested in the language of chance. I loved the idea you could pick several winners and rearrange them in particular orders. We all like to think we have a little bit of the knack. When guys to go poker night, they go in thinking they will win. ‘I’ve got the knack,’ they say. ‘I’m good at this.’ We like to think we are ‘lucky’ and in tune with forces bigger than we are. We are lucky a lot of times. But we also are unlucky a lot of times. Plus, I just like the sound of the word Perfecta.” The current collection includes her “The Case for Free Will” which won the coveted Pushcart Prize in 2011 and was included in the anthology, The Pushcart Prize XXXV: Best of the Small Presses. Seyburn traced the origins of Perfecta to a reader’s suggestion that she write more about the people she knew and her life outside CSULB. “It occurred to me, why don’t I write about ‘us?’ I’m part of ‘us,’” she recalled. “This book is a very social book. It is about social behaviors. It really asks why we act the way we act. What brings out the best in us and what brings out the worst?” Seyburn predicts the shock of the familiar when readers pick up Perfecta. “The poems have real people in them. Readers may recognize themselves and learn a little something about themselves,” she said. “Reading the book will help the readers find familiar worlds. I want my poems to tell the readers I do understand.

Author of the Month-Norbert Schürer

Being sympathetic does not exempt us from yearning for self-improvement. I think the book is fun and funny.” Seyburn enjoys reading Coleridge but writes for a 21st century audience. “I’m not writing just for other poets or other academics, I’m writing for other people out there in the world who are engaged with their jobs and lives, their kids and beloveds, but also are interested in thinking about their lives beyond day-to-day terms,” she said. “I think that describes most thoughtful people.” Seyburn is co-editor of POOL: a Journal of Poetry. She earned her B.S. and M.S. from Northwestern University, her M.A. from UC Irvine and her Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Houston.