Bidart Frank 1939 Frank Bidart

writes poems of great philosophical and emotional depth. They show us interior landscapes of desire and loss, crime and self-punishment, righteousness and forgiveness. More recently they have been concerned with love and artistic creation. Although he belongs to no poetic school, Bidart's affinities include Robert lowell, Elizabeth bishop, and Robert pinsky. Louise glück has called Bidart "one of the great poets of our time" in a blurb for his 2002 volume Music Like Dirt.

Of Basque-American heritage, Bidart was born in the Central Valley town of Bakersfield, California. He received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California, Riverside, and an M.A. in English from Harvard, where he studied with Lowell. He has taught at Wellesley College. Bidart's books have won many prizes including the Shelley Memorial Award (1997), the Lannan Foundation Award for poetry (1998), and the Wallace stevens Award (2001). In 2003 he was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Bidart's first volume, Golden State (1973), includes a series of indelible characters—some hateful, some beloved, all struggling for meaning. The speaker of the title poem, based on Bidart himself, attempts to reconnect through memory with his deceased father, a difficult and unloving man. Yet the father escapes the son's control, as he did in real life. He remains "unknowable; unpossessable." ("Golden State"). The poem exposes both the tensions and the intensity of the father-child relationship, and it reveals the tarnish on the "Golden State" of California.

"Ellen West" (1977) and "The War of Vaslav Nijin-sky" (1983)—published in subsequent volumes and collected in In the Western Night (1990)—bring historical personages to life. Both poems vividly reproduce the voices of the title characters and of those who interacted with them. Like "Golden State" these poems reflect on the tragic circumstances of individuals and on their historical situations. "The Second Hour of the Night," published in Desire (1997), meditates on longing, pleasure, pain, and death. It begins by reanimating the voices of French composer Hector Berlioz and his wife, actress Henriette-Constance Berlioz-Smithson. It then explores compulsive desire through the Ovidian myth of Myrrha and Cinyras and concludes by evoking an intense encounter with the ghost of a dead lover. In Bidart's most recent sequence, Music Like Dirt, he focuses on the central activity of creative "making."

Throughout his career Bidart has given readers a series of greatly original poems. They stretch the limits of language and genre. They examine a darkened world and even darker human natures. They pray for insight that often does not come. And, as in "Lament for the Makers," they explore the power of art to remake life: "Teach me, masters who by making were / remade, your art."

0 0

Post a comment