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The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us and inside us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience. Half-light encompasses all of Bidart’s previous books, and also includes a new collection, Thirst, in which the poet austerely surveys his life, laying it plain for us before venturing into something new and unknown. Here Bidart finds himself a “Creature coterminous with thirst,” still longing, still searching in himself, one of the “queers of the universe.” Visionary and revelatory, intimate and unguarded, Bidart’s collected works are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframed, restless line by restless line.


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The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us and inside us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience. Half-light encompasses all of Bidart’s previous books, and also includes a new collection, Thirst, in which the poet austerely surveys his life, laying it plain for us before venturing into something new and unknown. Here Bidart finds himself a “Creature coterminous with thirst,” still longing, still searching in himself, one of the “queers of the universe.” Visionary and revelatory, intimate and unguarded, Bidart’s collected works are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframed, restless line by restless line.

30 review for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    Poem Ending With a Sentence by Heath Ledger Each grinding flattened American vowel smashed to centerlessness, his glee that whatever long ago mutilated his mouth, he has mastered to mutilate you: the Joker’s voice, so unlike the bruised, withheld, wounded voice of Ennis Del Mar. Once I have the voice that’s the line and at the end of the line is a hook and attached to that is the soul.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A little over 700 pages, Half-Light isn't a collection that can be finished easily in a few sittings. I found reading much of the early poetry to require a great deal of patience, and I'm not sure that the quality of those poems merits the attention that Bidart consistently demands from his reader. By contrast, his later work as a whole becomes less affected and bombastic, making the poems more palatable, if not necessarily more approachable. In contrast to many poets, Bidart's strongest collect A little over 700 pages, Half-Light isn't a collection that can be finished easily in a few sittings. I found reading much of the early poetry to require a great deal of patience, and I'm not sure that the quality of those poems merits the attention that Bidart consistently demands from his reader. By contrast, his later work as a whole becomes less affected and bombastic, making the poems more palatable, if not necessarily more approachable. In contrast to many poets, Bidart's strongest collections—Star Dust, Watching the Spring Festival, and Metaphysical Dog—are those he wrote towards the end of his life. In these, it seems as though he has finally figured out how to juxtapose the personal against larger social and philosophical contexts without boring the reader.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    After 700 pages, with this collection I’ve finally finished all the books on the National Book Award shortlist for poetry. This one won the award, but it is my least favorite of the five. While there were many poems here that I loved, I also found many, particularly the earlier poems, much less accessible than the contemporary poetry from the other collections on the shortlist.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    The Title Poem: Half-Light by Frank Bidart That crazy drunken night I maneuvered you out into a field outside of Coachella—I’d never seen a sky so full of stars, as if the dirt of our lives still were sprinkled with glistening white shells from the ancient seabed beneath us that receded long ago. Parallel. We lay in parallel furrows. —That suffocated, fearful look on your face. Jim, yesterday I heard your wife on the phone tell me you died almost nine months ago. Jim, now we cannot ever. Bitter that we canno The Title Poem: Half-Light by Frank Bidart That crazy drunken night I maneuvered you out into a field outside of Coachella—I’d never seen a sky so full of stars, as if the dirt of our lives still were sprinkled with glistening white shells from the ancient seabed beneath us that receded long ago. Parallel. We lay in parallel furrows. —That suffocated, fearful look on your face. Jim, yesterday I heard your wife on the phone tell me you died almost nine months ago. Jim, now we cannot ever. Bitter that we cannot ever have the conversation that in nature and alive we never had. Now not ever. We have not spoken in years. I thought perhaps at ninety or a hundred, two broken-down old men, we wouldn’t give a damn, and find speech. When I tell you that all the years we were undergraduates I was madly in love with you you say you knew. I say I knew you knew. You say There was no place in nature we could meet. You say this as if you need me to admit something. No place in nature, given our natures. Or is this warning? I say what is happening now is happening only because one of us is dead. You laugh and say, Or both of us! Our words will be weirdly jolly. That light I now envy exists only on this page. * The above poem was my favorite. Here is a problem I had with a few other poems. The very first poem "To the Dead" has a great last line: The love I've known is the love of / two people staring / not at each other, but in the same direction. Great, right? Then I check out the footnotes that say those lines are "stolen, ultimately, from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Night Flight." What's that all about? I have heard it said that great poets steal. But this just looks like plagiarism to me. The author adds nothing much to the lines to deserve any credit. And it is not a cento poem with other quotes. * If I Could Mourn Like a Mourning Dove by Frank Bidart (from The New Yorker) It is what recurs that we believe, your face not at one moment looking sideways up at me anguished or elate, but the old words welling up by gravity rearranged: two weeks before you died in pain worn out, after my usual casual sign-off with All my love, your simple solemn My love to you, Frank. * And here is a link to three poems I like at Pen America: https://pen.org/three-poems-from-star... * If  See No End In Is BY FRANK BIDART What none knows is when, not if. Now that your life nears its end when you turn back what you see is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No, it is a vast resonating chamber in which each thing you say or do is new, but the same. What none knows is how to change. Each plateau you reach, if single, limited, only itself, in- cludes traces of  all the others, so that in the end limitation frees you, there is no end, if   you once see what is there to see. You cannot see what is there to see — not when she whose love you failed is standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know- ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end achieved by the unappeased is burial within. Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see by what necessity the double-bind is in the end the  figure  for human life, why what we love is precluded always by something else we love, as if each no we speak is yes, each yes no. The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no better. The eyrie where you perch in exhaustion has food and is out of  the wind, if cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea for movement, though the promise of  sex or food is the prospect that bewildered  you to this end. Something in you believes that it is not the end. When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is what you should not love, which endless bullies in- tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see the end. What none knows is when, not if. Source: Poetry (October 2007) Here he is reading the poem and discussing the sestina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE0M6... * For the AIDS Dead By FRANK BIDART The plague you have thus far survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. Writing a poem, I cleave to “you.” You means I, one, you, as well as the you inside you constantly talk to. Without justice or logic, without sense, you survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. * Visions at 74 BY FRANK BIDART The planet turns there without you, beautiful. Exiled by death you cannot touch it. Weird joy to watch postulates lived out and discarded, something crowded inside us always craving to become something glistening outside us, the relentless planet showing itself the logic of what is buried inside it. To love existence is to love what is indifferent to you you think, as you watch it turn there, beautiful. World that can know itself only by world, soon it must colonize and infect the stars. You are an hypothesis made of flesh. What you will teach the stars is constant rage at the constant prospect of not-being. • Sometimes when I wake it's because I hear a knock. Knock, Knock. Two knocks, quite clear. I wake and listen. It's nothing. * My rating of 4 stars probably does not reflect accurately by feelings about the book as a whole. More like 2 or 3 stars. But the poems I liked were excellent.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C. Varn

    Bidart's poetry is often studied in contraries, and this juxtaposition is not always easily accessible. Short-lined, long poems. Elliptical abstractions paired with motion and bodily movement. Bidart's goal is often to force empathy on us--to make the strange seem personally accessible and the almost make the personally accessible seem strange. Half-light includes all of Bidart's prior collections as well as his newest one. Bidart requires, however, a patience for obscure voices and obscure fram Bidart's poetry is often studied in contraries, and this juxtaposition is not always easily accessible. Short-lined, long poems. Elliptical abstractions paired with motion and bodily movement. Bidart's goal is often to force empathy on us--to make the strange seem personally accessible and the almost make the personally accessible seem strange. Half-light includes all of Bidart's prior collections as well as his newest one. Bidart requires, however, a patience for obscure voices and obscure frames of reference. Generally, his work is worth looking for the classical and contemporary references. Definitely worth the price of the collection, but I am not sure every reader, even every reader of poetry, would be willing to go where Bidart wants to take them.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Rajab

    This book’s so damn good... TT___TT Frank Bidart, I really am fond of your poems! “Quickly after my parents died, I came out. Foundational narrative designed to confer existence. If I had managed to came out to my mother, she would have blamed not me, but herself.” — Frank Bidart, Queer

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I'm quantifying, not judging, my rewarding experience through Bidart's work. I adore his two long poems "The First Hour of the Night" and "The Third Hour of the Night", but not the even hours. (I've rated all the volumes separately and named other favorite poems there.) I'm quantifying, not judging, my rewarding experience through Bidart's work. I adore his two long poems "The First Hour of the Night" and "The Third Hour of the Night", but not the even hours. (I've rated all the volumes separately and named other favorite poems there.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Congratulations, Frank Bidart, for winning this year's Pulitzer for poetry! Here's a favorite from this amazing, challenging, inspiring collection, the title poem, "Half-Light": That crazy drunken night I maneuvered you out into a field outside of Coachella—I’d never seen a sky so full of stars, as if the dirt of our lives still were sprinkled with glistening white shells from the ancient seabed beneath us that receded long ago. Parallel. We lay in parallel furrows. —That suffocated, fearful look on your Congratulations, Frank Bidart, for winning this year's Pulitzer for poetry! Here's a favorite from this amazing, challenging, inspiring collection, the title poem, "Half-Light": That crazy drunken night I maneuvered you out into a field outside of Coachella—I’d never seen a sky so full of stars, as if the dirt of our lives still were sprinkled with glistening white shells from the ancient seabed beneath us that receded long ago. Parallel. We lay in parallel furrows. —That suffocated, fearful look on your face. Jim, yesterday I heard your wife on the phone tell me you died almost nine months ago. Jim, now we cannot ever. Bitter that we cannot ever have the conversation that in nature and alive we never had. Now not ever. We have not spoken in years. I thought perhaps at ninety or a hundred, two broken-down old men, we wouldn’t give a damn, and find speech. When I tell you that all the years we were undergraduates I was madly in love with you you say you knew. I say I knew you knew. You say There was no place in nature we could meet. You say this as if you need me to admit something. No place in nature, given our natures. Or is this warning? I say what is happening now is happening only because one of us is dead. You laugh and say, Or both of us! Our words will be weirdly jolly. That light I now envy exists only on this page.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Bidart is one of the most fascinating and challenging poets I've ever not given up trying to read. If I'm being honest, there are maybe twenty poems in here that I can honestly say I liked, but every poem is a lesson, and when they work it is staggering. I'm normally kind of nonplussed by typographical experimentation in poetry, but Bidart's motivation isn't avant garde for the sake of avant garde, and there were moments where I could tune into what he was doing. His histories and dramatic monol Bidart is one of the most fascinating and challenging poets I've ever not given up trying to read. If I'm being honest, there are maybe twenty poems in here that I can honestly say I liked, but every poem is a lesson, and when they work it is staggering. I'm normally kind of nonplussed by typographical experimentation in poetry, but Bidart's motivation isn't avant garde for the sake of avant garde, and there were moments where I could tune into what he was doing. His histories and dramatic monologues ("The War of Vaslav Nijinsky," "Ellen West," the second, third, and fourth "Hour[s] of the Night," to name a few), which can span well over 30 pages, are as impressive as they are emotionally devastating, and yet just when you think that he can only be really impactful in his long poems, you'll find "Valentine" or "Rio." If you write, or want to write, lyric poetry, or experimental poetry, or persona poems, or historical poems, you have to read this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Finally read Bidart after having taken all of his classes while at Wellesley! Liked his later poems much more than his earlier ones, but loved having all of them together in one volume for comparison.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I didn't have as much time as I wanted to spend in the landscapes of Bidart's poems. Do any of us have that kind of time? A long but solid collection. I didn't have as much time as I wanted to spend in the landscapes of Bidart's poems. Do any of us have that kind of time? A long but solid collection.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dan DellaPosta

    I’ve spent the last year slowly making my way through this career-spanning collection of poems. I was not really a poetry connoisseur, but was drawn by the fanfare and awards surrounding this collection when it came out. I found Bidart’s poetry to be almost indescribably rich and rewarding. I also found his work very challenging, and benefitted tremendously from a) moving through the collection slowly and b) reading analytic and review essays online along with the poems themselves. It is hard to I’ve spent the last year slowly making my way through this career-spanning collection of poems. I was not really a poetry connoisseur, but was drawn by the fanfare and awards surrounding this collection when it came out. I found Bidart’s poetry to be almost indescribably rich and rewarding. I also found his work very challenging, and benefitted tremendously from a) moving through the collection slowly and b) reading analytic and review essays online along with the poems themselves. It is hard to summarize Bidart’s body of work. He is apparently best known for the visceral and disturbing content of older narrative poems “Herbert White” (about a child murderer) and “Ellen West” (about an anorexic). Neither of these ranked anywhere near my top picks for his best work, though I mean that as a compliment to his broader body of work rather than a critique of those poems. A constant and overarching theme in Bidart’s work is what he clearly sees as the ultimately unresolvable tension between our metaphysical images of the ideal (driving our desires, urges, etc) and the limitations of our physical existence (our bodies, our mortality, etc). To borrow a phrase from one helpful review essay I read, the characters in Bidart’s poems - which range from himself to Marilyn Monroe to even Genghis Khan - act as “embodiments” of these core dilemmas of “being.” This is probably best captured in his famous long narrative poems, of which my favorites were “The War of Vaslav Najinsky” and the four “Hours of the Night” poems. However, so much else in this collection defies simple categorization and demands careful reading and re-reading. The different books in the collection deal with themes ranging from personal examination and biography (Golden State) to the physical body (Book of the Body), guilt (The Sacrifice), desire (Desire), creation (Star Dust), and art (Watching the Spring Festival). I can think of very few writers who have so much of value and interest to say on so many things as Bidart. What a mind, and what a gift for the reader.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Rogers

    "To love existence is to love what is indifferent to you" This collection of Bidart's entire career sat on my nightstand for a year and a half. The early poems are word mazes. Demand constant rereading and are structurally challenging They read, They as in the Early Poems read Like.... This Which produces mixed results. At times it provides alternate interpretations and ways of perceiving words. At other times it makes a poem incomprehensible. As other reviews have noted, Bidart's poetry becomes not "To love existence is to love what is indifferent to you" This collection of Bidart's entire career sat on my nightstand for a year and a half. The early poems are word mazes. Demand constant rereading and are structurally challenging They read, They as in the Early Poems read Like.... This Which produces mixed results. At times it provides alternate interpretations and ways of perceiving words. At other times it makes a poem incomprehensible. As other reviews have noted, Bidart's poetry becomes noticably more palatable as it goes on. I'd say I was absolutely blown away by his post-2013 poetry. Before that felt like I was in over my head for my first real dive into poetry. Ultimately, Bidart has some excellent works and it felt really intimate to read through a collection of all of his work where you are able to pick up on recurring themes, learn what Frank's psyche fixates on, and reflect on what I, myself, fixate on.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    I absolutely love Frank Bidart’s personal and autobiographical poetry; “To The Dead,” “Confessional,” and “Golden State” are among my favorite poems. I also found “Herbert White” to be especially breathtaking as it opens a window into an unfamiliar consciousness and conscience. I can applaud his poems celebrating homosexual love as well for their sincere representation of his experience. However, I tend to get lost in the landscapes created by Bidart’s longer and lose interest! I agree with the I absolutely love Frank Bidart’s personal and autobiographical poetry; “To The Dead,” “Confessional,” and “Golden State” are among my favorite poems. I also found “Herbert White” to be especially breathtaking as it opens a window into an unfamiliar consciousness and conscience. I can applaud his poems celebrating homosexual love as well for their sincere representation of his experience. However, I tend to get lost in the landscapes created by Bidart’s longer and lose interest! I agree with the readers of the October 2004 issue of Poetry magazine that The Third Hour of the Night (and all the Night poems) was too long, too esoteric, and not good enough for its own issue! I value difficult poems that force one to tease out meaning (whether intended by the writer or projected by the reader), but Bidart’s obscurantism annoys me. Bidart’s “taking on” of various personages perspective—Nijinsky and Ellen West for example—also does not appeal to me personally. I find that academia tends to applaud such constructions as erudite and I just cannot figure out why. It’s as if delving into the faux mentality of someone else in a dramatic monologue is more “heroic” (using the description of Bidart’s work from The NY Times Book Review) than your own. I selfishly wish Bidart had never reached a catharsis with his own demons (see page 699) and moved away from the autobiographical style of his earlier years! I appreciated the notes and interview section in the book as it cast light on his thought process and intentions and fleshed out the text. I’m glad to have read this collection, but would not necessarily recommend it as a new purchase...buy it used....

  15. 4 out of 5

    wade

    This is the best book of poetry I have ever read in my life. It follows the scope of Bidart's writing from early in his life till the present day. There are widely varied and unique poems - some short and some epic. I love the way he incorporates classical art and history into the longer ones. The author must have a vast amount of knowledge on a plethora of topics. The cover shows a Cellini sculpture of Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa which figures significantly in one of his longer work This is the best book of poetry I have ever read in my life. It follows the scope of Bidart's writing from early in his life till the present day. There are widely varied and unique poems - some short and some epic. I love the way he incorporates classical art and history into the longer ones. The author must have a vast amount of knowledge on a plethora of topics. The cover shows a Cellini sculpture of Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa which figures significantly in one of his longer works. What is so wonderful is the consistent excellency of his work. Bidart is truly an American treasure.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Astrid

    I cannot imagine myself without this book anymore. To open this review, I should mention the personal story connected with this book. I began this renting it from my local library. I got through about a quarter of it, complaining all the while that I couldn't annotate in it and how I wish I had purchased a copy. A close friend of mine surprised me one day by pulling out the volume and setting it in front of me. It was a monumental gift, completely unprompted and unexpected; she knew I wanted a c I cannot imagine myself without this book anymore. To open this review, I should mention the personal story connected with this book. I began this renting it from my local library. I got through about a quarter of it, complaining all the while that I couldn't annotate in it and how I wish I had purchased a copy. A close friend of mine surprised me one day by pulling out the volume and setting it in front of me. It was a monumental gift, completely unprompted and unexpected; she knew I wanted a copy, she knew I only annotated in paperbacks, and she cared enough to go through and make note of her personal favorites. Needless to say, such a gift that makes someone feel seen and recognized like that? A beautiful rarity. I first heard of Frank Bidart from an out of context piece of his poem "Guilty of Dust" that possessed me: "WHETHER YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE OR LIVE IN DIVIDED CEASELESS REVOLT AGAINST IT WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE" I had to find out who had written this and consume as much of that work as I could. This poetry volume, a summation of his life from 1965 to 2016, is a masterwork. I feel like I lived in these poems; his exploration of thirst, hunger, the need to make and the perspectives of humanity; history and love and shame; queer love and acceptance and the myriad of emotions that sums up aging. This work changed me as a writer and poet, pushed me as a thinker into introspection unexpected. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and easily Bidart has secured his position as a favorite poet. I don't know what to do with myself now. Favorite and notable poems include: Guilty of Dust Ellen West (and Writing "Ellen West"). The First Hour of the Night The Second Hour of the Night The Third Hour of the Night The Fourth Hour of the Night Music Like Dirt Luggage Lament for the Makers Poem Ending With Three Lines From "Home on the Range" Song of the Mortar and Pestle If See No End In Is Like Queer Mouth For the AIDS Dead On This Earth Where No Secure Foothold Is Half-light This is an essential book; a must-read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ba

    A powerful and unique body of work - Bidart is truly one of the great living American poets. If you're interested in syntax, narrative poetry, dramatic monologues-he is a unique master. The interviews at the end also illuminate: art as the dramatization of what is "revealed" to the artist, the importance of the writer's understanding of "How, in your experience, you apprehend significance." The early poems are excellent but he is also a writer not content to rest on laurels which makes working t A powerful and unique body of work - Bidart is truly one of the great living American poets. If you're interested in syntax, narrative poetry, dramatic monologues-he is a unique master. The interviews at the end also illuminate: art as the dramatization of what is "revealed" to the artist, the importance of the writer's understanding of "How, in your experience, you apprehend significance." The early poems are excellent but he is also a writer not content to rest on laurels which makes working through the complete collection very satisfying. Starting with Desire, the poems felt like they were taking on a new urgency; then Metaphysical Dog and Thirst had a new deep feeling of experience and wisdom (beginning with "Hymn" in "Watching the Spring Festival"), becoming for me Bidart's true permanence his Rip through the fabric. Nail it. Not to the wall. Rip through the wall. Outside time. Nail it. This compilation is more than just a compilation, esp. given Bidart's love of internal self reference. The poet's struggle with himself on the subject of his mother evolves over multiple books and culminates with great beauty in the poem "Marth Yarnoz Bidart Hall" (Metaphysical Dog). The poem "Half Light" powerfully recalls the poem "Star Dust." The Fourth Hour of the Night recalls both "Collector" - By what steps can the Slave become the Master and "The Soldier Who Guards the Frontier" - He is grateful, he says, not to exist

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Being only a recent neophyte to poetry, I only heard about this collection because it won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize this past year. Having now finished reading this wonderful collection, there is no mystery in my mind as to why it was chosen. This is an astounding collection that readers both new and old to the genre can enjoy. Mr. Bidart’s style is arresting, grabbing a hold of you and rarely letting go. And this is true of both his short and long poems. Until now, I had no Being only a recent neophyte to poetry, I only heard about this collection because it won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize this past year. Having now finished reading this wonderful collection, there is no mystery in my mind as to why it was chosen. This is an astounding collection that readers both new and old to the genre can enjoy. Mr. Bidart’s style is arresting, grabbing a hold of you and rarely letting go. And this is true of both his short and long poems. Until now, I had not read a poet who could hold my attention in both the long and short form. Usually they are good at one, but lousy at the other. Mr. Bidart is excellent at both. His more narrative poems are a special highlight, including his four “Hour of the Night” poems that he has written throughout his career. These poems in particular, and all of his poems in general, are meditations on history, mythology, family, and sexuality and the legacy they leave us. Some of his poems are bit explicit in their sexuality, including homosexuality, so less mature readers may want to wait before picking this book up. But this is also one of Mr. Bidart’s great strengths. He is open and vulnerable about his own family and sexuality, but he never loses the plot of his poems in mindless meditations. This was a great read and I recommend it to all of my poetry friends.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles Houser

    Frank Bidart is clearly (and rightfully) concerned with his legacy as a poet. This collection of his life’s work is interestingly arranged, not strictly chronological as one would expect. I found it satisfying to read them in the order presented, assuming their creator had reasons he trusted the reader would intuit. The author’s notes at the back of the book are spotty but answer some questions readers might have. The three interviews in the appendix, however, are insightful and worth repeated s Frank Bidart is clearly (and rightfully) concerned with his legacy as a poet. This collection of his life’s work is interestingly arranged, not strictly chronological as one would expect. I found it satisfying to read them in the order presented, assuming their creator had reasons he trusted the reader would intuit. The author’s notes at the back of the book are spotty but answer some questions readers might have. The three interviews in the appendix, however, are insightful and worth repeated study. My favorite poems were the longer ones: the four “Hour of the Night” poems and the monologue style poems told from the pov of their subjects (Ellen West, an anorexic, the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, and serial killer Herbert White). But every poem has something to recommend it. To my knowledge, Bidart is not claimed by any “school”, though he acknowledges being mentored by Robert Lowell. It’s not hard to see echoes of New York poets like O’Hara and Schuyler or hints of the Beats. The monologue poems called to mind Frost’s long, “dramatic” poems like Death of a Hired Man. And Whitman (and “the body electric”) is everywhere. It’s certainly a collection I’m going to revisit often. Give it a go.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abby N Lewis

    I loved this collection, but it definitely requires the sort of attention that stems from a mind that is content and a body well fed and rested. That being said, I still loved it. I started to read the first poem, "To the Dead," and I found I couldn't finish reading the poem--I had to stop, go back to the beginning, and read it aloud. It was the sort of poem that demands that kind of attention. By the time I had finished reading the poem aloud, I was crying. From there, I knew I had to keep read I loved this collection, but it definitely requires the sort of attention that stems from a mind that is content and a body well fed and rested. That being said, I still loved it. I started to read the first poem, "To the Dead," and I found I couldn't finish reading the poem--I had to stop, go back to the beginning, and read it aloud. It was the sort of poem that demands that kind of attention. By the time I had finished reading the poem aloud, I was crying. From there, I knew I had to keep reading (while reading aloud as often as possible). In the interviews in the back of the collection, Bidart talks about his struggle to put the "voice" correctly on the page in a poem. It seems as if it's been a lifelong task/struggle for him. But in my mind, the fact that I felt compelled to read each poem aloud because of the way it appeared on the page--to me, that meant Bidart had succeeded in getting each voice across to his reader.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    What can I say about a book of poetry, to evaluate it? It won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry but I have no skill to evaluate poetry and not for a collection across a man's lifetime body of work. Some were short. Some were long. A few were very, very long. I liked some, did not like others, a few of them touched my heart, but none touched my soul. This is as it should be. Poetry is art. Mostly, one goes to museums to see art works. I have gone to some art museums, some small, some very, very What can I say about a book of poetry, to evaluate it? It won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry but I have no skill to evaluate poetry and not for a collection across a man's lifetime body of work. Some were short. Some were long. A few were very, very long. I liked some, did not like others, a few of them touched my heart, but none touched my soul. This is as it should be. Poetry is art. Mostly, one goes to museums to see art works. I have gone to some art museums, some small, some very, very big. Some art I liked, some I didn't like, a few touched my heart, but only one ever touched my soul. When I start to tell someone of the beauty I saw in it, even 50 years later, I begin to cry and words fail me. Each book of poetry is like an art museum. This was a very, very big one. But who knows in which locale you will find the one that, across a lifetime, will touch your soul.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    Poems I Liked: "To the Dead" "Guilty of Dust" "Advice to the Players" "Lament for the Makers" "Like Lightening Across an Open Field" "Song of the Mortar and Pestle" "Queer" "Half-light" From "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky": "Now my wife wants to have / a second child. I am frightened; / the things a human being must learn, - / the things a child / must learn he FEELS, - / frighten me! I know people's faults / because in my soul, / I HAVE COMMITTED THEM." p. 26 From "Whitman": "The question became not / whe Poems I Liked: "To the Dead" "Guilty of Dust" "Advice to the Players" "Lament for the Makers" "Like Lightening Across an Open Field" "Song of the Mortar and Pestle" "Queer" "Half-light" From "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky": "Now my wife wants to have / a second child. I am frightened; / the things a human being must learn, - / the things a child / must learn he FEELS, - / frighten me! I know people's faults / because in my soul, / I HAVE COMMITTED THEM." p. 26 From "Whitman": "The question became not / whether a master, but which. / You schooled and reschooled / yourself to bind with / briars your joys and desires." p.546

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jim Manis

    I was a third of the way through this book when the Pulitzer's were announced and sparked the argument about whether such prizes should be awarded to such collections or for shorter, more traditional works of poetry. I understand the arguments for both cases, but frankly can't decide which should outweigh the other. I like Bidart's longer poems. The shorter ones seem too much like what everyone else has written over the past half century. The three interviews at the end of the book are worth read I was a third of the way through this book when the Pulitzer's were announced and sparked the argument about whether such prizes should be awarded to such collections or for shorter, more traditional works of poetry. I understand the arguments for both cases, but frankly can't decide which should outweigh the other. I like Bidart's longer poems. The shorter ones seem too much like what everyone else has written over the past half century. The three interviews at the end of the book are worth reading. Bidart several times refers to "voice," which no one talks about anymore. They should, as he points out.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Heather Lake

    This collection was a bit of a struggle for me to get through. There were some bright spots throughout, but more often than not I found the poems too distant & abstract to have any sort of meaningful connection with. I think my biggest issue was the poems, at least in the first 2/3 or so were focused so heavily on concepts that there wasn’t anything personal or solid for me to latch onto or find affecting. Maybe that’s just a personal preference, but I don’t care for obscure poetry unless the em This collection was a bit of a struggle for me to get through. There were some bright spots throughout, but more often than not I found the poems too distant & abstract to have any sort of meaningful connection with. I think my biggest issue was the poems, at least in the first 2/3 or so were focused so heavily on concepts that there wasn’t anything personal or solid for me to latch onto or find affecting. Maybe that’s just a personal preference, but I don’t care for obscure poetry unless the emotional payoff is worth the time it takes to draw out some sort of meaning. I think the latter poems did strike a better balance at this, but again, just not my cup of tea.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Marsh

    What a joy it has been to read all of this man's incredible poetry this year. Lots of it has found its way into my own writing -- no greater gift can there be than that, in my opinion. This final collection, Thirst, wasn't necessarily my favorite (that would be Desire + Metaphysical Dog), but taken as a tome that reflects a full career? Absolutely dazzling. This will definitely see me continuing the trend of reading a few poems before I begin my own creative writing. It's a wonderful form of med What a joy it has been to read all of this man's incredible poetry this year. Lots of it has found its way into my own writing -- no greater gift can there be than that, in my opinion. This final collection, Thirst, wasn't necessarily my favorite (that would be Desire + Metaphysical Dog), but taken as a tome that reflects a full career? Absolutely dazzling. This will definitely see me continuing the trend of reading a few poems before I begin my own creative writing. It's a wonderful form of meditation. Now all I have to do is simply find someone to read back my soul to me like Frank Bidart has here. (Thirst = B // Half-light = A+++)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    Bidart’s poems are exceptionally sounded: their orality takes us back to the classics, to dreams, and to contemporary voices. And those voices uncover a reality that we often deny: the sexualized body, the degraded body, the anorexic body, the confused mind, and the mind of killers, lovers, leaders... In fact, these poems are the inner reflection of us in the present, past or in potential. Bidart’s poems are some of the finest American poems of the last century and the current one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    CONTENT WARNINGS for these poems: Mutilation. Loss of limb. Car accident. Dysfunctional family relationships. Incest. Rape. Sexual Assault of a Child. Murder of a Child. Eating Disorders. Mental health institutions. A very mixed bag. Undeniably interesting. The style never really changed throughout, which I rather don't like in a collection of 50 years of poems - feels like the poet didn't change in all that time. I loved Half-light, the poem. Incredibly touching. CONTENT WARNINGS for these poems: Mutilation. Loss of limb. Car accident. Dysfunctional family relationships. Incest. Rape. Sexual Assault of a Child. Murder of a Child. Eating Disorders. Mental health institutions. A very mixed bag. Undeniably interesting. The style never really changed throughout, which I rather don't like in a collection of 50 years of poems - feels like the poet didn't change in all that time. I loved Half-light, the poem. Incredibly touching.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jon French

    I have plenty of dog-eared pages to return to in this collection. I think Star Dust is by far the best book within this collection. Unfortunately, I discovered I am not a huge Bidart fan. I get lost in his existentialism. Maybe I'm just a pleb. Favorite Poems: Heart Beat Three Tattoos Inauguration Day Love Incarnate History Hunger for the Absolute Least Favorite: Anything that mentions the Roman Empire or Ghengis Khan... I have plenty of dog-eared pages to return to in this collection. I think Star Dust is by far the best book within this collection. Unfortunately, I discovered I am not a huge Bidart fan. I get lost in his existentialism. Maybe I'm just a pleb. Favorite Poems: Heart Beat Three Tattoos Inauguration Day Love Incarnate History Hunger for the Absolute Least Favorite: Anything that mentions the Roman Empire or Ghengis Khan...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Ruth

    This man's work has inspired me greatly. So much. Also love how he tells stories through his work. It's the kind of poetry that is harrowing and haunting and stays with you like a bizarre dream you can't get the taste out of your mouth and must sit with it there, hanging from your uvula, crawling into your brain: changing you. This man's work has inspired me greatly. So much. Also love how he tells stories through his work. It's the kind of poetry that is harrowing and haunting and stays with you like a bizarre dream you can't get the taste out of your mouth and must sit with it there, hanging from your uvula, crawling into your brain: changing you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike Refky

    I found the book enjoyable, although it took me awhile to get through it. Even though I am generally not a fan of long poems, those are the stars in Bidart’s collection. The First Hour of the Night and other poems in that series are full of philosophical portent and interesting narrative. Although he’s not my favorite poet, this is worth a read.

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