Information about the poet.
I hate and—love. The sleepless body hammering a nail nails itself, hanging crucified.—from “Catullus: Excrucior”
In Frank Bidart’s collection of poems, the encounter with desire is the encounter with destiny. The first half contains some of Bidart’s most luminous and intimate work-poems about the art of writing, Eros, and the desolations and mirror of history (in a spectacular narrative based on Tacitus). The second half of the book exts the overt lyricism of the opening section into even more ambitious territory-”The Second Hour of the Night” may be Bidart’s most profound and complex meditation on the illusion of will, his most seductive dramatic poem to date.
This is Frank Bidart’s first book of lyrics—his first book not dominated by long poems. Narrative elaboration becomes speed and song. Less embattled than earlier work, less actively violent, these new poems have, by conceding time’s finalities and triumphs, acquired a dark radiance unlike anything seen before in Bidart’s long career.
Mortality—imminent, not theoretical—forces the self to question the relation between the actual life lived and what was once the promise of transformation. This plays out against a broad landscape. The book opens with Marilyn Monroe, followed by the glamour of the eighth-century Chinese imperial court (seen through the eyes of one of China’s greatest poets, Tu Fu). At the center of the book is an ambitious meditation on the Russian ballerina Ulanova, Giselle, and the nature of tragedy. All this gives new dimension and poignance to Bidart’s recurring preoccupation with the human need to leave behind some record or emblem,…[more]
A vital, searching new collection from one of finest American poets at work today
In “Those Nights,” Frank Bidart writes: “We who could get / somewhere through / words through / sex could not.” Words and sex, art and flesh: In Metaphysical Dog, Bidart explores their nexus. The result stands among this deeply adventurous poet’s most powerful and achieved work, an emotionally naked, fearlessly candid journey through many of the central axes, the central conflicts, of his life, and ours.
Near the end of the book, Bidart writes:
In adolescence, you thought your work
ancient work: to decipher at last…[more]
In 2002, Frank Bidart published a sequence of poems, Music Like Dirt, the first chapbook ever to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. From the beginning, he had conceived this sequence as the opening movement in a larger structure—now, with Star Dust, finally complete.
Throughout his work, Bidart has been uniquely alert to the dramatic possibilities of violence; in this, and in his sense of theater, he resembles the great Jacobean dramatists. It is no accident that Webster’s plays echo in “The Third Hour of the Night,” the brilliant long poem that dominates the second half of Star Dust. Bidart locates in Benvenuto Cellini the speaker truest to his own vision. Who better to speak of the drive to create, not as reverie or pleasure or afterthought, but as task and burden, thwarted by the world? In its scale, sonorities, extraordinary leaps, and juxtapositions, “The Third Hour of the…[more]
In 2001, Bidart received the Wallace Stevens Award, given by the Academy of American Poets. The judges were Eavan Boland, Louise Glück, Wendy Lesser, James Longenbach, and Carl Phillips. Jury chair Louise Glück writes: “Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country. He has given form for our age to what is most urgent and most private in the human soul: the ordeals of solitude and mortality and hunger and, recently, that action through which being speaks: the drive to make or create. Bidart’s poems sound like no one else’s; they look like no one else’s: to accommodate the requirement of his art, that the voice be precisely enacted in its every variation and hesitation, Bidart has made of his form a theatre: if the voice must be confined to the page, it will exploit that page, extend its possibilities.
His work has been, from the start, remarkable in its disdain for the soothing, the sentimental, the facile, the partial. He is, in the feeling of our jury, one of the great poets of our time.”