Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Garth Greenwell
Dear Editor,

It is difficult to imagine the deafness of ear and poverty of soul necessary to dismiss Frank Bidart's "Third Hour of the Night" (October, 2004) as a "dull, unfathomable poem," as Mark Soifer was brave enough to do in your January issue (Letters, January, 2005). I urge him to return to it. Over the past four decades, Bidart has amassed a body of work relentless, and very nearly unrivaled, in its seriousness and intensity; in recent years he has added to those distinctions a more recognizable and often ravishing lyric beauty. I can think of very few recent poems so gorgeous as the imprisoned Cellini's vision of Christ; I can think of none that offers anything so thrilling as Cellini's final victory over "the world's mere / arrangements of power" in the creation of his Perseus. Dedicating an entire issue to Bidart's poem required no small amount of editorial courage; you should be congratulated for it.

Having seen several readers express dismay at your comment section, let me also say that the quality and liveliness of criticism in recent issues of Poetry is a sign of your success in bringing the magazine back so unexpectedly to life. I have been especially glad to read the contributions of Dan Chiasson, who, a propos his recent exchange with Adam Kirsch, seems poised to serve the art not merely by guarding a tradition, essential a duty as that is, but also by furthering it.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Originally Published: October 30, 2005

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This prose originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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