to treat the starving woman. His third book begins with a very long poem in the voice of the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who tried in his art to make something that might picture - even possibly redeem - the Europe torn apart by World War I. His last full-length book, Desire, retold at length an ancient Greek incest myth about the creation of myrrh. His poems often speak quite directly, without any obvious verbal flourishes, although they also have an idiosyncratic punctuation and lineation that makes them feel halting and urgent. Bidart is willing to take on the big themes that so many contemporary poets seem reluctant to engage. Longing, guilt, the necessity of creation - all of these have figured in his work. Sometimes he is willing to state his themes quite directly. For instance, in "To the Dead," a remarkable love poem from the late 1980s, Bidart wrote:
| The love I've known is the love of |
two people staring
not at each other, but in the same
And in a recent chapbook, Music like Dirt, he writes this forthright sentence: "Because existence is willy-nilly thrust into our hands, our fate is to make something - if nothing else, the shape cut by the arc of our lives."