Frank Bidart is an American academic and poet, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Bidart is a native of California and considered a career in acting or directing when he was young. In 1957, he began to study at the University of California at Riverside, where he was introduced to writers such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and started to look at poetry as a career path. He then went on to Harvard, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. He began studying with Lowell and Reuben Brower in 1962.
He has been an English professor at Wellesley College since 1972, and has taught at nearby Brandeis University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he is gay. In his early work, he was noted for his dramatic monologue poems like Ellen West, which Bidart wrote from the point of view of a woman with an eating disorder, and Herbert White, which he wrote from the point of view of a psychopath. He has also written openly about his family in the style of confessional poetry.
He co-edited the Collected Poems of Robert Lowell which was published in 2003 after years of working on the book’s voluminous footnotes with his co-editor David Gewanter.
Bidart was the 2007 winner of Yale University’s Bollingen Prize in American Poetry. His chapbook, Music Like Dirt, later included in the collection Star Dust, was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His 2013 book Metaphysical Dog was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry and won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In 2017, Bidart received the Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award and the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry for his book Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016, for which he was also awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016.
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.”
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