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Shakespair: Sonnet Replies to the 154 Sonnets of William Shakespeare" by Martin Bidney

5 Star Review

Editorial Review

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In "Shakespair: Sonnet Replies to the 154 Sonnets of William Shakespeare," Martin Bidney extends a literary hand across the centuries, engaging in an intricate poetic conversation with the bard himself. This collection not only breathes fresh life into Shakespeare's iconic sonnets but also creates a mesmerizing tapestry of reflection, emotion, and creativity that transcends time and genre.

Bidney's approach is both audacious and reverential. He takes the masterpieces penned by Shakespeare in the 1590s and answers them with a contemporary poetic voice. In this dialogue, Bidney explores the surprises lying within the original sonnets, notably the intricate plotline and the broad spectrum of passionate emotions. Bidney weaves his responses into a narrative that spans the spectrum between a dramatic play and a psychological novel, forging an emotional bridge between past and present. This is the mark of a true scholar.

Central to Bidney's poetic conversation is his exploration of the complexities surrounding the speaker's bisexual temperament. By navigating the intricate dynamics of the speaker's relationships with both a boyfriend and a mistress, Bidney dives deep into the depths of the human psyche, where desire, attraction, and conflict intertwine. These emotional oscillations mirror the rich tapestry of human experience, offering a profound exploration of identity, desire, and the ever-shifting nature of human emotion.

What truly distinguishes "Shakespair" is Bidney's artistry in crafting each sonnet. With an impressive command of language and form, he summons an array of voices from history and fiction, allowing poets, philosophers, mythic figures, musicians, and novelists to enter the conversation. Bidney ingeniously weaves these voices into his replies, creating a chorus of perspectives that enriches the dialogue's complexity. As he responds to Shakespeare's verses, he offers parallel or contrasting memories, imaginings, and psychological insights, resulting in a multi-dimensional exploration of the themes at play.

Bidney's commitment to the genre of lyrical response is evident in the boundless possibilities he uncovers. His "verse journaling" is a testament to the power of poetic expression to excavate the deepest corners of human thought and emotion. Through his poetic prowess, he unearths the limitless potential within Shakespeare's lyric form, embodying the essence of creative rivalry and dialogue.

"Shakespair" is an invitation to embark on an intellectual and emotional odyssey. Martin Bidney, with his profound respect for Shakespeare's artistry, has fashioned a dialogue that is both an homage and an exploration. By channeling his energy, creativity, and passion into crafting these sonnet replies, Bidney generates a unique work that resonates not only with lovers of Shakespeare but with anyone who seeks a profound exploration of human nature through the poetic lens.

In "Shakespair: Sonnet Replies to the 154 Sonnets of William Shakespeare," Bidney not only embraces the timeless tradition of literary rivalry but also forges a new path, proving that there is always room for fresh conversations within the age-old echoes of poetry. This book is a testament to the enduring power of poetic dialogue, a living testament to the capacity of verse to provoke, enlighten, and transport readers across the tapestry of time and human emotion.

About the Author

Martin Bidney, Professor Emeritus at Binghamton University (NY), writes poetry books that are dialogues. In "Shakespair" he converses in Shakespearean sonnets with the 154 that the bisexual Bard himself wrote in the 1590s about his boyfriend and girlfriend. In "A Unifying Light" Martin converses with Qur'anic passages on the topic of Jews and Christians in the Qur'an and the Islamic virtues they embody. "East-West Poetry" shows Martin replying, in poems, to passages from both the Qur'an and Rumi. "Poems of Wine and Tavern Romance" offers 103 dialogues between Martin and Hafiz, the 14th century Persian pub poet he translates, a Muslim Sufi who was bisexual, like Shakespeare, and whom Germany's greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, called his "twin" brother! (Martin translates Hafiz from the same version Goethe used.) In fact, Martin has also translated Goethe's own "West-East Divan" (divan means "collection") and wrote conversational reply poems to all of Goethe's 240 lyrics. Martin's dialogue book with the greatest Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, contains, on facing pages, the sonnets he wrote in response to the "Crimean Sonnets" he translated from Polish. In "Like a Fine Rug of Erivan" he translates 39 Pushkin poems from Russian and recites them on a CD. His wide-ranging fascination with revelatory writing stems from "Patterns of Epiphany," where Martin pioneered a method of analysis he has since applied to over 20 authors.


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