Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Gold Star for Frank Bidart's Poetry

Frank Bidart was announced the winner of the Bollingen Prize by Yale University in a media release that went out on Monday. Here is almost the entire release:

New Haven, Conn. — A three-judge panel has named Frank Bidart the 2007 winner of Yale University’s Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.

The judges described Bidart as “a poet whose work exemplifies consistent originality of theme, sustained linguistic and formal explorations and a strong sense of the profoundly serious and adventurous nature of the poetic calling.”

This year’s judges were Langdon Hammer, professor of English at Yale, Nicholas Jenkins, professor of English at Stanford University, and the poet Ellen Bryant Voigt of Vermont.

Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939 and educated at the University of California, Riverside, and at Harvard. He joined the faculty at Wellesley College in 1972. His volumes of poetry include “In the Western Night: Collected Poems, 1965–90” (1990), “Desire” (1997), “Star Dust” (2005), all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and “Music Like Dirt” (2002), by Sarabande Books.

The judges also said: “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, probing, sometimes shocking, always subtle—venture into psychic terrain left largely unmapped in contemporary poetry. His imaginative strenuousness and his fastidious avoidance of complacency or easy repetitions of past triumphs have led him to “Star Dust” (2005), one of the strongest books of the last two years, in which Bidart manages to extend his range while never losing his voice. Indeed, Bidart’s uniquely stringent meditations on the problems, enigmas and possibilities of a poet’s ‘voice’ constitute one of the most distinctive characteristics of his poetry. For all these reasons, the Bollingen Prize Committee for 2007 is pleased to honor Frank Bidart, who has already built up a lifetime’s worth of memorable work and yet whose future writing seems certain to be freighted with fresh challenges for himself and for his readers.”

The Bollingen Prize in Poetry, established by Paul Mellon in 1949, is awarded biennially by the Yale University Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. Previous winners include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, E. E. Cummings, Louise Glück, Adrienne Rich and Jay Wright. The prize includes a cash award of $100,000.

A sample of Bidart's poetry (which certainly exhibits torque!):

by Frank Bidart

You know that it is there, lair
where the bear ceases
for a time even to exist.

Crawl in. You have at last killed
enough and eaten enough to be fat
enough to cease for a time to exist.

Crawl in. It takes talent to live at night, and scorning
others you had that talent, but now you sniff
the season when you must cease to exist.

Crawl in. Whatever for good or ill
grows within you needs
you for a time to cease to exist.

It is not raining inside
tonight. You know that it is there. Crawl in.

Copyright © 2005 by Frank Bidart. From Star Dust.

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