From the Publisher
“In the Western Night" establishes Frank Bidart's place among this century's most emotionally articular poets. His fine earlier books, published between 1973 and 1983, are here, surroudned by a selection of equally impressive newer pieces. Taken together, they constitute a hauntingly raw voice that finds itself through an exhilarating array of prosodic techniques. More than most of his post-confessional contemporaries, Bidart is unafraid of passion, and willing to harness his passion to words and structures...His voice, and the voices in his dramatic monologues, are unrelentingly curious and honest; and yet they inevitably back up against the greatest of mysteries.” Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe
“In the supreme poems, Bidart's spiritual force makes me...yield to the authority of the voice. "Ellen West" is a heartbreaking act of sympathy.” Denis Donoghue, The New Republic
“Achieves a grandeur of vision few poets nowadays can match.” Alan Shapiro, Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In resourcefully inventive poems, Bidart confronts head-on the insoluble problems of being: the thirst for meaning, the fathomless abyss of death, the polarities of good and evil. Dramatic monologues wrest feverish, luminous meditations out of an anorectic, hospitalized poet (``Ellen West''), a sociopathic rapist/killer (``Herbert White'') and a creative artist grappling with guilt, insanity, Nietzsche and the search for an authentic self (``The War of Vaslav Nijinsky''). Bidart also draws on wrenching autobiographical incident, Christian tradition, Western philosophy. ``Golden State'' evokes the anger, love and confusion occasioned by the death of his alcoholic father. A poet who believes the poem embodies ``the mind in action,'' he synthesizes the flexibility of Pound's Cantos , Robert Lowell's sense of argument with the past, and Hart Crane's collage-like structuring into a distinctive, sharp-edged voice raised to an intense pitch. (May)
These intense, often disturbing poems are not for the faint-hearted. To read them is to be both discomforted and fascinated by Bidart's subject matter: the lives of a bulimic and an amputee, Nijinsky's insanity, the loss of friends and lovers, and the poet's own childhood, blighted by parental alcoholism and neglect. Bidart employs a strong narrative voice and a liberal use of typographic conceits (italics, ellipses, capitalized words, idiosyncratic punctuation), which adds a distinctive polyphonic texture to the poems. These are dramatic monologs for the late 20th century, full of anger, pain, and cynicism. As the poet writes, ``I hate and love. Ignorant fish/who even wants the fly while writhing.'' It is the tension between bipolarities of emotion that give these poems their forceful energy. Recommended for collections of contemporary poetry.-- Christine Stenstrom, New York Law Sch. Lib.