Don't worry: I've found the ideal antidote for this rainy Monday morning.
KCRW's Book Worm interviewed Frank Bidart last March, and the whole thing is so full of passion and excitement that you can't help but have a little rub off of you. It's better than a mid-morning cup of coffee.
One more Bidart recording for the day, this one called To The Republic.
I don't want to add to much to his words below, as I think they ought to speak for themselves. Bidart joins the ranks of warpoets from the ages, and I particularly like his earlier statement on the poem:
"If it's any good, it will not just be an anti-Bush poem, but be about
the past coming and saying that you've betrayed the legacy we left
Download the audio here, or listen on the player below.
I'm willing to take corrections (poetry at fsgbooks.com) on this, but I am pretty sure that Cross-Cultural Poetics is the hardest-working poetry radio show around these parts.
That link will take you to a list of all of the shows Leonard Schwartz has conducted since 1993--and it's an impressive list. In addition to FSG greats Frank Bidart and Lydia Davis, I'd recommend the interviews with Rick Simonson, Chris Abani (whose novel Virgin of Flames I devoured in one sitting last week and heartily recommend), and W. S. Merwin, although it's definitely worth your time to look through all the interviews to find one your favorite poet.
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.'
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.'
Michael over at The Cruelest Month just reminded me of something Paul Muldoon said last night at our event--'sometimes it's fun to have fun with poetry.'
This poem by Robert Lowell called Memories of West Street and Lepke, read by Frank Bidart in 1996, shows that he might have agreed with Muldoon. Just the mouthfeel of the poem when pronounced by Bidart is enough to make you want to read it aloud--words like 'bookworming,' 'beachwagon,' and 'flame flamingo' abound. Download it here, or give a listen below.