The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 17, 2007

"I Thought 'I Know That He Will Return It'"

This audio has Frank Bidart introducing his poem 'The Second Hour of the Night' as "newly completed." Since this recording was made in 1996, Bidart has completed one more poem in this series, titled 'The Third Hour of the Night.'

Bookslut conducted a detailed interview with Bidart in June 2005 about this series of poems, which I will quote here:

BS: So far you’ve published "The First Hour of the Night," "The Second Hour of the Night," and "The Third Hour of the Night" -- what is the inspiration for this project? That is, what made you want to do this? Where is it going? Does the project have a name?

FB: The myth behind the series of poems is the Egyptian “Book of Gates,” which is inscribed on the sarcophagus of Seti I. Each night during the twelve hours of the night the sun must pass through twelve territories of the underworld before it can rise again at dawn. Each hour is marked by a new gate, the threshold to a new territory. Each poem in the series is an hour we must pass through before the sun can rise again. I don’t know what will make moral and intellectual clarity and coherence rise again: I could never write twelve “hours.” But were the sun to rise again, it would have to pass through something like these territories. I’ve only written three “hours” over something like seventeen years. I’m sixty-six: I’ll be lucky if I can write one more. I like the idea that I’m involved in a project that can’t be completed: the project corresponds to how things are.

All three of the poems can be found in Bidart's recent books--Stardust, Desire, and In the Western Night. Click here or listen below for a recording of Part II from 'The Second Hour of the Night.'


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