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Kates continuedfrom previous page You are the ruin whose arm encircles the young woman at the posthumous bar, before your death. The strongest poem in the collection is that which opens the second part of Star Dust. "Curse" takes every risk that should land it flat on its face: it faces up to a public occasion, it speaks with a stagy, old-fashioned rhetoric to invoke the ancient magic of anathemata that once rhymed rats to death—and it works. The targets of this curse are those who brought down the World Trade Center in New York nearly five years ago: May what you have made descend upon you. May the listening ears of your victimstheir eyestheir breath enter you, and eat like acid the bubble of rectitude that allowed you breath. This both responds to and transcends its occasion magnificently. With a devastating balance ofactuality and art, it reminds me of Yeats's "Easter 1916." (I suffered a pinprick of annoyance that Bidart feels he has to point out his own success in one of a couple of endnotes in which he tells us how to read his poems, like Nabokov drawing attention to his own cleverness.) The laser focus of "Curse" stands in stark contrast to failures like "Advice to the Players " and the vapid "Legacy," which also purports to be a "public" poem in part answering Robert Frost: "Excrement ofthe sky our rage inherits Il there was no gift I outrightwe were never the land's." At his worst, Bidart uses words as hard laborers. They show no overt playfulness, and the exigencies ofthejob sometimes leave them standing around like construction workers in enforced idleness, waiting for somebody else to bring up the necessary materials before they can get busy again. The results are often disconnected sets of phrases, thoughts, as in the painfully prosy "Advice to the Players." Items in this piece range from the sententious—"In the images with which our culture incessantly teaches us, the cessation of labor is the beginning of pleasure; the goal ofwork is to cease working, an endless paradise of unending diversion"; to the pretentious—"Go make you ready"; with little stops in between at the gnomic—"Without clarity, a curse, a misfortune." In his endnote, Bidart wants to tell us that this is "a manifesto written by someone who does not believe in manifestos." Okay. At the very center ofStarDust lies "Star Dust," a poem of relative calm in the middle of what surrounds it.it reads like a love poem, but "we lie on our backs in close dark parallel furrows newly // dug. . .," contemplating the artificial light of city life that blots out the stars. Here, all the ambiguities and contraries make poetry, each thing hidden, buried between us now bums and surrounds us. . .. In this light is our grave. . . . I know now why I have not paid a lot of attention to Bidart's work in the past. He demands a close, thoughtful reading—but he does not always deserve one. The poems that do deserve such a reading, though, like "Curse" and "Star Dust" and "Stanzas Ending with the Same Two Words," are satisfying and permanent. J. Kates is a poet and literary translator who lives in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. A Song Like a Pistol Shot Jeff Wiederkehr Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads Greil Marcus PublicAffairs http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com 288 pages; cloth, $25.00 Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone"—"the number one song that has made him the idol of millions instead ofjust thousands"—is examined from just about every angle in Greil Marcus's latest book. Marcus's take on the song as it appears on Highway 61 Revisited hinges on an interpretation of what can only be called timing—the perfect moment for the perfect song. Marcus seeks to describe the song as an enigma that was as much the product ofchance as it was of talent. In this perfect moment in 1965, Marcus observes, "The pop world was in a race with the greater world, the world of wars and elections... and in 1965 you could feel that the pop world was winning." This moment was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2153-4578
Print ISSN
0149-9408
Pages
pp. 26-27
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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