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Watching the Spring Festival


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Frank Bidart's most recent full-length collections of poetry are Star Dust (FSG, 2005), Desire (FSG, 1997), and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (FSG, 1990). He has won many prizes, including the 2007 Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.


Long admired for his lengthy dramatic monologs, Bidart (Star Dust) here channels his poetic energies into relatively compressed lyrical forms, honing what could have been expansive meditations on mortality, illusion, transformation, and rebirth down to thunderbolts of image ("At the threshold/ you can see the threshold: --/ it is a precipice") and aphorism. Nearing 70, Bidart writes as if under a deadline, emphasizing essence over exposition ("A good photograph tells you everything/ that's really going on is invisible") and cutting straight to the poem's metaphysical core ("What none knows is when, not if"). This work exudes an almost visceral poignancy--a bitter half-acceptance of a world that distracts us from recognizing the brevity of our lives with fleeting manifestations of beauty. Bidart sometimes speaks through the imagined lives of others (Marilyn Monroe's mother, Tu Fu), but his masks have grown transparent, and when he writes (in "Under Julian, c.362 A.D."), "the fewer the gestures that can, in the future,/ be, the sweeter those left to you to make," we know who's really doing the talking. Recommended for most collections.--Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In his seventh book, Bidart condenses his searing, guilt-ridden meditations on the possibilities and limits of the imagination into shorter lyrics, as opposed to the long poems for which he is known. Mostly written in the second person, this speaker addresses himself, fighting the fear that "...all that releases/ transformation in us is illusion" with the flailing hope that, "[t]he rituals// you love imply that, repeating them,/ you store seeds that promise/ the end of ritual." Bidart's rituals of consolation include replaying records from the early decades of recorded music; revisiting and revising old, failed loves (" persuade yourself that it can be/ reversed because he teasingly sprinkles/ evasive accounts of his erotic history"); watching a film of the aging Russian dancer Ulanova, who is "too old to dance something but the world wants to record it"; and learning caution and peace from the Tu Fu poem from which the collection takes its title. In his most intimate and vulnerable book, Bidart enacts a troubled longing to parse the real from the merely imaginary, the transcendent from the merely real, which is answered, even if incompletely, only by the human capacity to create, as "the irreparable enters me again, again me it twists." (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country . . . One of the great poets of our time." --Louise Gluck, citation for the 2000 Wallace Stevens Award"An unearthly mixture of the Dionysian and the Apollonian impulses, the terrifying and the humane, the wildly inspired and the minutely crafted, Bidart's poems--eerie, robing, sometimes shocking, always subtle--venture into psychic terrain left largely unmapped in contemporary poetry." --from the citation for the 2007 Bollingen Prize for Poetry"These poems offer no compromise, no synthesis, for the sentiments that collide in them: they are the products of long thought and great craft, but only in the sense in which a bonfire might be called the product of logs . . . No poet so deliberate, so thoughtful, has seemed at the same time so chthonically driven, so compelled to make what he makes and nothing else . . . If we want profundity, harsh originality, unequalled compression, deft syntax and difficult wisdom, we should hold dear what Bidart can now give." --Stephen Burt, London Review of Books"Full of rage even when most melancholy or sweet, [Bidart's] voice leaps off the page toward his subjects, and toward the reader . . . Grand poetic ambition, at its best, can make us feel that that which challenges the glory-seeking poet also challenges the ordinary life. In lucid moments of this wonderful book, Bidart accomplishes this feat." --Katie Peterson, Chicago Tribune"For this poet the storytelling function of narrative often contains the grievous and exalted emotional states more traditionally associated with dramatic catharsis . . . Bidart has succeeded at returning us to belief not in what we will to be the case, but rather in those forces to which our will is inevitably suborned, and by which our will, inevitable and impossible, is defined. That is a life, and an artistry, magnificently well spent." --Raymond McDaniel, Boston Review"Relentless in evoking 'the great / grounding events' from his own life precisely enough that they become a kind of mirror, Bidart is supreme among contemporary poets in revealing the lineaments of the twisting, yearning soul." --American Poet

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