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Star Dust: Poems Paperback – May 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"We are creatures who need to make," writes Bidart, succinctly expressing the argument of his recent chapbook, Music Like Dirt, which comprises one half of this new volume. Music Like Dirt was the first chapbook ever to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, deservedly so. In it, Bidart, with characteristic ruthlessness, outlines an aesthetic theory so basic that it applies to all of us. The theory begins with Bidart's long-standing interest in fusing the body and the mind, so that the body becomes the fundament of vision and spirit. It's a notion captured famously in a line from Bidart's Desire: "I hate and-love. The sleepless body hammering a nail nails / itself, hanging crucified." Now Bidart extends the theory further to fuse existence with creativity: "But being is making: not only large things, a family, a book, a business: but the shape we give this afternoon, a conversation between two friends, a meal." Not surprisingly, tropes of sculpture, where art and corporeality meet most literally, dominate this collection. The body that would crucify itself now sculpts itself, albeit violently: "The stone arm raising a stone hammer / dreams it can descend upon itself." These themes bleed into the more personal lyrics present in the second half of this volume, most notably in "Curse," a poem of articulate fury addressed to the masterminds of September 11. Sculpture and self-creation resume the stage in "The Third Hour of the Night," a long poem in the voice of Benvenuto Cellini, renaissance sculptor and murderer. Throughout the collection, Bidart alternates between prosy explication and knotted, unpunctuated verse that enacts the poet's chief image: "within stone / the mind writhes." Bidart has recently emerged from the long and relatively thankless editorship of Robert Lowell's collected poems; Star Dust redoubles his claim to his own fame.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Bidart is dazzled, confounded and compelled by words, and he wants us to feel the same way . . . [He] has a fastidious sense of poetic craft, but he has faith in primal energies too . . . What Bidart proposes, to balance the moral and aesthetic risks that he takes in Star Dust, is the largest possible conception of poetry's powers. (Langdon Hammer, The New York Times Book Review)

Key poems that speak directly to our age--a kind of post-millennium poetry of engagement . . . Marvelous. (Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374530335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374530334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Margarita Lluria on May 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Frank Bidart's STAR DUST is something like a perfect book of poems. It has a beginning, middle and end and never stops being a good--which is to say gripping, even suspenseful-- read . The opening section of poems, a sequence called "Music Like Dirt," works like a prologue to a collection of poems about making, about the project of being-in-the world through the lens of the maker. The final long poem, "The Third Hour of the Night," about the sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, is both a culmination of this meditiation and a subversion of the ideas put forth in the earlier poems. This is an unsettling, brilliant, beautifully made and deeply moving book of poems. And unlike many contemporary books of poems, it is direct, accessible and deeply interesting (the way novels are interesting) from start to finish. Yet it repays re-reading and study for its formal virtuosity and variety.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Frank Bidart, Star Dust (FSG, 2005)

I've just wandered through the already-posted Amazon reviews on this one, and it's pretty obvious that I'm in the minority. So I'll apologize beforehand, since it's obvious I'm wrong. After all, this collection was, in fact, a National Book Award finalist, though it lost to Merwin's Migration. Despite the overwhelming evidence that I am, in fact, wrong, I have to stick to my guns-- I just didn't like it anywhere near as much as everyone else seems to have.

First off, "The Third Hour of the Night" has to be addressed. The dramatic monologue, as a poetic device, has a long and revered history, as well it should. But the vast majority of dramatic monologues throughout the ages have been presented to us in formal verse, which allows for a freer language, because poetically it still has the form to fall back on; it's still unquestionably poetry. Doing dramatic monologues in free verse is exceptionally tricky; if you fall back into unpoetic language, you risk the entire house of cards toppling down around you, with your monologue looking like a speech that's been chopped up into little lines. It's worse when you're relating history. He central part of "The Third Hour of the Night," which takes up about a quarter of Star Dust's total length, tells us about Benvenuto Cellini. It's certainly not straight biographical information, but it still borders on the prosaic, and crosses over that line far too many times during its length. I know there's a lot of argument over this point, but to me, if it's too prosaic too many times, I simply can't look at it seriously as poetry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. A Carty on August 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Sometimes I am reluctant to write reviews of the poetry I read. This is certainly a time when I was. I am certainly not a poet who has the reknown or the publication history of Frank Bidart but I do still have an opinion.

Reading _Star Dust_ was difficult. Not only is the poetry in a very academic style, but the poems are also replete w/ allusions to music and art. If these poems were in a school anthology there would have been a plethora of endnotes. We, however, were not given the help of that so I found other ways to discern what Bidart's references were all about.

I can see the skill of Frank Bidart. He is well educated and has an amazing ability to make his poems reflect upon each other as is best apparent with the final poem and how it relates to the earlier poems in the collection.

All this good and bad being said, for me, this isn't a book I would read again. I don't mind being challenged but I came away from this collection feeling that I was just being challenged because the poet was capable of doing so. This is not a collection I would read again.

I would say, however, that if you are looking for a good challenge-a puzzle-then sit with google and a marker and just see the layers that Bidart is capable of. It can be an adventure.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Fefa Aguirregaviria on June 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The poems in Frank Bidart's STAR DUST are a world unto themselves. They provide all the nourishment one needs from literature by exploring what is most deeply definitive about our humanity: our ability to love and to fail at love and our ability to create. The final poem of the book, the long "Third Hour of the Night" about the Florentine sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, reads like a nineteenth century European novel : its narrative fairly gallops. And like Dostoevsky, Bidart unflinchingly forces us to face the most difficult and urgent moral questions. Like his shaman in the final poem, Bidart dares to extract the heart of his subjects in order to examine it and then put it back. With Bidart as our guide we can travel through the underworld of his dark world vision and emerge edified and strengthened, if not entirely cleansed.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ilya V. Kaminsky on February 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have very little doubt that Frank Bidart is a

major American poet. What do I mean by that? I mean

that he has brought into American poetry something

altogether new - a voice that attempts to explore the

large questions about the human condition using the

ages old form of dramatic monologue in a completely

new way. To date, there are several such long "Bidart"

poems: "Herbert White", "Ellen West", "The War of

Vaslav Nijinsky", "The Second Hour of the Night" and

now, in this new collection, "The Third Hour of the

Night". The ambition of this life-long project is

enormous. The fact that his craft continues to live up

to this ambition is what makes Bidart a very special author at work today. In book after book after book he has

given us long, intense, self-contained poems that

explore essential components of human condition--from

our desire to our desire to make--with seriousness and

unmistakable genius. Genius is not a word I hesitate

to use when I write about Frank Bidart's life-long

work. This is the poet who has more in common with

Dostoevsky than with any of our contemporaries. Bidart

disdains the issues (such as critical theory or Irony,

with a capital "I", for instance) that obsess poets

today. Instead, he asks essential questions about what

it is to live in our time; he struggles with large,

unembarrassed emotions and original, serious ideas,

blending them together with force and spark.
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