- About the Book
The collected works of one of contemporary poetrys most original voicesGathered 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 its that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poets 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 Bidarts 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, Bidarts Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2017 are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframed, restless line by restless line.
The publication of Half-Light: Collected Poems, 1965-2016 gives readers a chance to see how Bidart, ill content merely to say what happened in prefab stanzas, performs a poetry of embodiment first by adopting personas most famously those of the necrophiliac murderer Herbert White, the suicidal anorexic Ellen West and the Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinksy then by dropping the mask altogether, adding layers to the self-mythology of Frank Bidart as he interpolates his life with those of such figures as St. Augustine of Hippo, Maria Callas, Benvenuto Cellini and Walt Whitman.... The danger of a career-encompassing volume like this one, especially for a career as prolific as Bidart's has been, is that the greatest poems tend to overpower the minors. This is especially true in his later volumes, which conspicuously mark Bidart's turn toward social and political issues like race relations or the poet's own identity as a gay man. But even here, Bidart's seething intellect and ruthless gaze register grace and wisdom... Bidart avoids the pitfalls of therapeutic poetry by ennobling thought itself. There's something heroic in the maverick poet who shirks conventional aesthetics to make a temple of the mind.
—New York Times
—New York Times