Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, on May 27, 1939, and educated at the University of California, Riverside, and Harvard University, where he was a student and friend of both Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.
Bidart’s first volume of poetry, Golden State (G. Braziller, 1973), was selected by poet Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series, but it was not 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 Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; 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 coeditor of Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).
About Bidart’s work, former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück said, “More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet since [John] 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.”
Bidart’s 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 from the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, 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, and teaches at Wellesley College, having served on the faculty since 1972. He is currently Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and professor emeritus of English at the college.