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University welcomes 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist Bidart

By Emily Cummins, Assistant News Editor

Renowned poet Frank Bidart spoke November 4 at the Monroe Lecture Center Theater as part of the Great Writers, Great Readings series presented by the University's English Department.

Bidart is the winner of the 2007 Bollingen Prize for Poetry awarded by Yale University Library and was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. He read mostly from his first book of lyrics "Watching the Spring Festival."

His works explore the origins and consequences of guilt as well as tragedy and the apparent "war within us." Critics say that it is his balance of craft and vulnerability that makes him one of the most significant, modern American poets.

As he read his poetry the theater was silent, and the audience focused in on his rich delivery and emotional content. Bidart spoke with a quiet power as he read about love and the choices people are torn between.

Some quotations included "you've wanted to die since the moment you were born" and "I'm a multiple of zero." He read from the ten minute poem "Ulanova at Forty-Six at Last Dances Before the Camera Giselle" that included the lines "The queen condemns him to dance until he dies," and "Love must silence its victims or become their vessel; she become his vessel."

This poem describes the experience of watching the movie named in the title. The poem meshes together prose description and Bidart's personal commentary; he is known for breaking the rules.

The last poem Bidart read was his sestina "If See No End In Is." He said, "This is my only sestina, and it will be my only sestina," which is due to the difficult nature of the structure. A sestina consists of six six-line stanzas followed by a tercet for a total of thirty-nine lines. The same set of six words ends the lines of each of the six-line stanzas, but in a different order each time.

His reason for writing a poem of this nature was because, "the order is so powerful, you fear it is fixed, but it is not… and that's with life as well," he said.

The event concluded with a special request to read "In My Desk" which included the line "My hands wanted to touch your hands because we had hands."

At the close of the event, Bidart signed copies of his books for students who enthusiastically formed a line outside.

2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist Frank Bidart read his work at the Monroe Lecture Center Theater on November 4 as part of the English Department’s Great Writers, Great Readings series. (Emily Cummins/The Chronicle)

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