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November 17, 1992French Institue Alliance Fran‡aiseFrom the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California on May 27, 1939 and educated at the University of California at Riverside and at Harvard University, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.

His first volume of poetry, Golden State (G. Braziller, 1973), was selected by poet Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series, but it wasn't until the publication of The Sacrifice (Random House, 1983) that Bidart's poetry began to attract a wider readership. Bidart's early books are collected in In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990).

His recent volumes include Metaphysical Dog: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013); Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008); Star Dust (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); Music Like Dirt (Sarabande Books, 2002); and Desire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic's Circle Award. He is also the co-editor of Robert Lowell's Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).

About his work, the former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück has said, "More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since Berryman (whom he in no way resembles) Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma." And about his career as a poet, she said, "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."

His honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation Writer's Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, and The Paris Review's first Bernard F. Conners Prize for "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky" in 1981. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.

Bidart was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2003. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has taught at Wellesley College since 1972.


Selected Bibliography

Metaphysical Dog: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)
Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
Star Dust (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005)
Music Like Dirt (Sarabande Books, 2002)
Desire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997)
In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
The Sacrifice (Random House, 1983)
Golden State (G. Braziller, 1973)


Multimedia

From the inaugural Poets Forum, October 20, 2007From the Image Archive

 

To the Dead

Frank Bidart, 1939

 

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Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939 and educated at

by this poet

poem
The only thing I miss about Los Angeles

is the Hollywood Freeway at midnight, windows down and
radio blaring
bearing right into the center of the city, the Capitol Tower
on the right, and beyond it, Hollywood Boulevard
blazing

—pimps, surplus stores, footprints of the stars

—descending through the city
poem
Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

                 *

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in
poem

 

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