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Burn Down the Museum

Stephanie Burt: The Poetry of Frank Bidart, 6 November 2008

Watching the Spring Festival 
by Frank Bidart.
Farrar, Straus, 61 pp., $25, April 2008, 978 0 374 28603 3
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... poet – and it ought to frustrate his readers – when he gets recognised for the wrong things. Frank Bidart first became famous in America (famous, that is, as American poets go) for the grisly violence of his dramatic monologues, for his poems’ unusual layout and typography, and for his close association with older poets, especially with Robert ...

His Own Prophet

Michael Hofmann: Read Robert Lowell!, 11 September 2003

Collected Poems 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter.
Faber, 1186 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 571 16340 8
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... its incorporation of stray materials, the personal touch on the elbow that the American poet Frank Bidart, a close friend and associate of Lowell’s, ‘both amanuensis and sounding-board’ for the many books of sonnets, has brought to it. (A no doubt garbled account once reached me of Lowell flying ...

Spurious, Glorious

Lavinia Greenlaw: Three Long Poems, 13 September 2018

Three Poems 
by Hannah Sullivan.
Faber, 73 pp., £10.99, January 2018, 978 0 571 33767 5
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... at us: ‘Thoreau/snow’, ‘Victorians/Emersonian’, ‘productivity/something dirty’, ‘Frank Bidart/questions in art’. Three Poems has an aerated extravagance that brings to mind Wallace Stevens’s ‘Parfait Martinique: coffee mousse, rum on top, a little cream on top of that’ – though that sounds positively austere beside these ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... In fact, in 1978, the year after Lowell’s death, Blackwood posted them to Lowell’s friend Frank Bidart in Boston. Bidart, Saskia Hamilton writes, ‘put the envelope under his bed, and later transferred it to the Houghton Library in Harvard, with a cover note stating that “This packet of letters belongs to ...

What became of Modernism?

C.K. Stead, 1 May 1980

Five American Poets 
by John Matthias, introduced by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £3.25, November 1979, 0 85635 259 4
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The New Australian Poetry 
edited by John Tranter.
Makar Press, 330 pp., £6.50, November 1979
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Carpenters of Light 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 154 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 85635 305 1
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Mirabell: Books of Number 
by James Merrill.
Oxford, 182 pp., £3.25, June 1979, 0 19 211892 7
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The Book of the Body 
by Frank Bidart.
Faber, 44 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 374 11549 4
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Skull of Adam 
by Stanley Moss.
Anvil, 67 pp., £2.50, May 1979, 0 85646 041 9
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Poems 1928-1978 
by Stanley Kunitz.
Secker, 249 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 436 23932 9
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... that Chester Kallman is being prepared for reincarnation as a future black leader in South Africa. Frank Bidart’s The Book of the Body elicits the voyeur in us. Such fascination as it has is that of the case-study in abnormality, and no one confident of his poetic style would find room for Jerome Kern words like ‘suddenly’ and ‘somehow’, nor ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters, 22 September 2005

The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... sorting out a large number of poems into appropriate volumes had been undertaken with the help of Frank Bidart, and those that went into The Dolphin were personal, including not only references to Elizabeth Hardwick, but embarrassing quotations from her letters and phone calls. Lowell made no attempt to get her permission to use this material – it ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... of 1935, when he was 18, Robert Lowell and two friends from St Mark’s School – Blair Clark and Frank Parker – rented a house in Nantucket. Under Lowell’s direction, they studied the Bible (with special attention to the Book of Job) and ate cereal with raw honey and ‘badly’ cooked eels. Lowell decided that Clark should quit smoking and, when Clark ...

The lighthouse stares back

Matthew Bevis: Tóibín on Bishop, 7 January 2016

On Elizabeth Bishop 
by Colm Tóibín.
Princeton, 209 pp., £13.95, March 2015, 978 0 691 15411 4
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... to her sense of what poetry could be: a reaching of one’s limits, and a release into the wild. Frank Bidart once told her how great the poem’s closing lines were, and recalled her response: ‘She said that when she was writing it she hardly knew what she was writing, knew the words were right, and (at this she raised her arms as high straight above ...

A Peacock Called Mirabell

August Kleinzahler: James Merrill, 30 March 2016

James Merrill: Life and Art 
by Langdon Hammer.
Knopf, 913 pp., £27, April 2015, 978 0 375 41333 9
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... of old friends from far places’ who visited him towards the end. That was who he was. The poet Frank Bidart, one of his older friends, is quoted near the end of Hammer’s book: ‘He was infinitely accomplished, preternaturally gifted – the greatest rhymer since Pope – capable of doing anything on the page, with a divine assemblage of sound and ...

Mostly Middle

Michael Hofmann: Elizabeth Bishop, 8 September 2011

Poems 
by Elizabeth Bishop.
Chatto, 352 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8628 9
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... than something to be envied; in the heyday of ‘lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals’ (Frank O’Hara), the New Yorker was not viewed as a particularly serious publisher of poetry. Appearing there did nothing to contradict Bishop’s self-stylisation as a ‘poet by default’: ‘I’ve always felt that I’ve written poetry more by not writing it ...

Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary

Mark Ford: Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary, 29 November 2007

... up into the air’, lifts them ‘lightly’, ‘five flights up’. Bishop once told the poet Frank Bidart that as she wrote the closing lines of ‘At the Fishhouses’ she felt ‘ten feet tall’, raising her hands as high as they would go above her head to perform her sense of elevation. Like Penelope Gwin’s blue balloon, the bird of ‘Five ...

Follow-the-Leader

Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... Lowell made changes to the book as a result of this letter, but he left the sections quoted above. Frank Bidart wrote in his notes to the poems: ‘Lowell responded by fundamentally changing the book. Several of the poems in Hardwick’s voice were muted by taking them out of direct quotation, placed in italics, their anguish and anger softened.’ Lowell ...

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