This, from Bidart’s fantastic 2008 collection Watching the Spring Festival, which, like all of Bidart’s work, I cannot recommend highly enough.
Frank Bidart: Valentine
How those now dead used the word love bewildered
and disgusted the boy who resolved he
would not reassure the world he felt
love until he understood love
Resolve that too soon crumbled when he found
within his chest
something intolerable for which the word
because no other word was right
must be love
must be love
Love craved and despised and necessary
the Great American Songbook said explained our fate
my bereft grandmother bereft
father bereft mother their wild regret
How those now dead used love to explain
I am currently nursing, let’s say, an obsession, with Frank Bidart’s slim but excellent work. This is from his first collection, Golden State, which can be found in In The Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90, which I recommend highly.
Frank Bidart: To My Father
I walked into the room.
There were objects in the room. I thought I needed nothing
from them. They began to speak,
but the words were unintelligible, a painful cacophony…
Then I realized they were saying the name
of the man who had chosen them, owned them,
ordered, arranged them, their deceased cause,
the secret pattern that made these things order.
I strained to hear: but
the sound remained unintelligible…
senselessly getting louder, urgent, deafening.
Hands over my ears, at last I knew they would remain
inarticulate; your name was not in my language.
From a Bookslut interview with the great Frank Bidart
The whole book is about making, how the desire to make is built into us, its necessities and pleasures and contradictions. The impulse to make is itself neither good nor bad. It is a species of the will to power, which is inseparable from survival and creation. It is inseparable from the impulse to destroy. The most ferocious enactment of the will to power always must confront metaphysical and epistemological limits: in the poem (not in Eliade): “Once you reach what is / inside it is outside.” Human beings constantly strive to reach the heart of something: when they reach it they find it is only another surface. Art strives to be that center that has reached the light, and remains the center: in Ashbery’s brilliant phrase, the “visible core.”
Here is Frank Bidart reading his poem “Romain Clerou”. Bidart, as I must have said somewhere before, is one of my favorite living poets, or anyway one of those whose work most stuns me, whom I admire and love most. You can find this poem in his 2005 collection Star Dust.
Frank Bidart, one of the living poets I admire most (see also this post), speaks briefly on forms:
The artist’s problem is to make life show itself. Homer, Aeschylus, Vergil, Shakespeare – a great deal of Western art has made life show itself by dramatizing crisis and disaster. (…) Again and again, insight is dramatized by showing the conflict between what is ordinarily seen, ordinarily understood, and what is experienced as real. Cracking the shell of the world; or finding that teh shell is cracking under you. The unrealizable ideal is to write as if the earth opened and spoke. I think that if the earth did speak she would espouse no one set of values, affectations, meanings, that everything embraced would also somehow be annihilated and denied.
this is from Frank Bidart’s stupendous book In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (more precisely, from an appended interview with Bidart) Bishop has praised Bidart’s first volume, and almost every poem in this book is very good, some are really great. One of the very best living poets.