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Comment: Withdrawn library item. Limited marks/labels. Clean pages with a little wrinkling from use. Tight binding. Cover and DJ have moderate surface and edge wear.
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Watching the Spring Festival: Poems Hardcover – April 1, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his seventh book, Bidart condenses his searing, guilt-ridden meditations on the possibilities and limits of the imagination into shorter lyrics, as opposed to the long poems for which he is known. Mostly written in the second person, this speaker addresses himself, fighting the fear that ...all that releases/ transformation in us is illusion with the flailing hope that, [t]he rituals// you love imply that, repeating them,/ you store seeds that promise/ the end of ritual. Bidart's rituals of consolation include replaying records from the early decades of recorded music; revisiting and revising old, failed loves (...you persuade yourself that it can be/ reversed because he teasingly sprinkles/ evasive accounts of his erotic history); watching a film of the aging Russian dancer Ulanova, who is too old to dance something but the world wants to record it; and learning caution and peace from the Tu Fu poem from which the collection takes its title. In his most intimate and vulnerable book, Bidart enacts a troubled longing to parse the real from the merely imaginary, the transcendent from the merely real, which is answered, even if incompletely, only by the human capacity to create, as the irreparable enters me again, again me it twists. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Bidart’s first collection not dominated by one or more long narratives shows him concerned, hardly for the first time, with the resonance of the old saw ars longa, vita brevis. The title poem and its cognate, “Tu Fu Watches the Spring Festival across Serpentine Lake,” participate in an artistic life begun in 753 with an extravagant imperial court celebration that one of China’s greatest poets witnessed—an imaginative life that links, across the centuries, human death and persistent artistry, unfortunately with the impotent fury that beautiful longevity arouses. The inability to clearly and logically connect art’s endurance and life’s transience doesn’t lessen the feelings, the fury, felt because of the connection. Catullus said something similar about life and love in his famous couplet beginning, “Odi et amo” (“I hate and I love”), Bidart’s version of which appears between the festival poems. A different reaction to the same conundrum of life and art—awe, not rage—is also conveyed, unforgettably by the volume’s longest piece, “Ulanova at Forty-Six at Last Dances before a Camera Giselle.” Bidart, though “difficult,” is nonpareil. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1ST edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374286035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374286033
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,286,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a simply extraordinary collection of poems by Frank Bidart, who is quickly becoming recognized, alongside Louise Glück, as an influential master in contemporary poetry. This book can perhaps be best understood as a companion, rather than a standalone collection: it is best to have an understanding of Bidart's style and work from, say, _In the Western Night_ and _Star Dust_ than it is to start reading him with this book.

He makes his intent clear in the end of Under Julian, C362 A.D. that "the fewer the gestures that can, in the future,/ be, the sweeter those left to you to make." It seems, given this perspective, that the title, _Watching the Spring Festival_, suggests a spring that has come, whereas this book really remains steeped in an autumn of sorts. Each of these poems, in some way, explores death and mortality, and many of them look back, whether to earlier poems in this volume (there is a large degree of self-referentiality, and the poem Watching the Spring Festival, late in the book, forces the translation Tu Fu Watches the Spring Festival Across Serpentine Lake to be reread), to Bidart's earlier volumes (there is a new translation of Catullus' Odi et Amo that perhaps needs a rereading of the translation in _Desire_ to make sense), to those of his mentor, Robert Lowell (Like Lightning Across an Open Field takes from Lowell's The Days in _Day by Day_), and to the early forms that originally constituted poetry (If See No End In Is acts as a wonderful update of the sestina form, with the envoi suggestively gone).

A number of Bidart's readers have complained that, although _Star Dust_ was well-executed, they missed the dominant typography that characterized his earlier books.
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Format: Hardcover
Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008)

The jacket copy for Watching the Spring Festival mentions that Bidart's poetry here is less violent than his previous work. Maybe in the immediate sense, but there's still a streak of--what, nihilism?--a mile wide here:

"The desire to approach obliteration
precedes each metaphysic justifying it."
("Song of the Mortar and Pestle")

Maybe not nihilism in the sense we think of it these days, with all its negative connotations, but that Hindu or Buddhist reaching for nothing-consciousness (with its greater sense of "living in the now" rather than "the destruction of all things"). Of course, I could be off the mark here. I often am. But I didn't feel even the specter of violence hovering over this volume. Discomfort, sure, but then most good poetry is in some way discomfiting. Man vs. self, man vs. nature, all that jazz. Bidart is very interested in man vs. self, but not in a solipsistic sense. Man vs. self through the lens of said man seeing the outside world, perhaps? (I want to draw a parallel to Richard Siken's sublime Crush here, and I have since I started thinking about this review, but can't quite make the connection.) There's a definite sense of the outside world, and a recognition of Heisenberg, that what is observed is changed by observation, even when the observer is the self.

"When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly.
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Format: Paperback
I saw Frank Bidart read from this book in April 2011, at Vanderbilt University. He's an engaging speaker and well worth seeing if you have the opportunity. He read some shorter poems, including a sestina ("it's my only sestina; it will be my only sestina - I feel lucky to have escaped with my neck") and the very long poem "Ulanova at Forty-Six At Last Dances Before a Camera Giselle," during which I fell asleep. In fairness to Bidart, I was working on a substantial sleep deficit and the reading was in one of those university lecture halls seemingly designed to sedate students. I saw the Winnipeg ballet perform Giselle in 2001, so I was familiar with his inspiration, but it didn't help me understand the poem, which combined several speakers with a meditation on the writing of the poem itself.

Bidart's work makes me feel stupid; this isn't Bidart's fault - he's obviously a genius, and he expects his audience to be as well, and, alas, I am not. But that's not why I am giving this book only three stars. I don't particularly mind being made to feel stupid, and even appreciate it in some writers (Eliot comes to mind) whose work I feel rewards a patient reader. But I find Bidart's poetry distancing and cold, completely aside from its difficulty. I think he's doing something (modernist, allusive), that I'm just not interested in. He has some other, more approachable poems (like "Marilyn Monroe") which I enjoy, but by and large I think his approach to poetry is simply too emotionless for me. His writing is experimental and convoluted, and will be rewarding for readers with the patience to sort through his many allusions and who enjoy poetry as an intellectual puzzle.
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