Frank Bidart Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Frank Bidart (BIH-durt) is known primarily for his poetry. He also coedited the monumental Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (2002).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Deeply engaged in the moral issues of both personal and cultural guilt, Frank Bidart’s poetry has won praise for the intensity with which it documents the struggle between the limits imposed by the body and the ideals envisioned by the mind. In 1981, Bidart won the Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for Poetry for his long poem “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky.” This extended dramatic monologue highlights Bidart’s unique talents: an unsettling insight into the psychology of guilt and anger, a singular style of narrative poetry based on abstract speech with little reliance on traditional poetic devices, and a thematic focus on the suffering occasioned by humankind’s ambiguous intermixture of body and spirit. In 1998, Desire won the Bobbitt National Prize given by the Library of Congress, the Bingham Poetry Prize from the Boston Book Review, and the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize from Saginaw Valley State University, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Bidart received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award (1991), the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award (1995), the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America (1997), the O. B. Hardison, Jr., Poetry Prize (1997), the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (1998), the Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets (2000), the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine (2005), and the Bollingen Prize for poetry (2007). His Watching the Spring Festival was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry (2008). Bidart served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2003-2009) and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bergman, Susan. “Frank Bidart’s Personae: The Anterior ’I.’” Pequod 43 (2000): 100-111. Bidart’s dramatic or persona poems are based on the stance that “self precedes and centers expression.” Bergman underscores what is unique in Bidart’s version of the vogue for persona poems, providing excellent close readings of many key passages.

Bidart, Frank.“Frank Bidart.” Interview by Christopher Hennessy. In Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets, edited by Hennessy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. Bidart discusses his poetics of embodiment and what it is like to be an outsider.

_______. “In Conversation with Frank Bidart.” Interview by H. L. Hix. Madison Literary Review 53, no. 1 (Fall, 2009): 191-200. Discusses “Ellen West,” “Herbert White,” and Watching the Spring Festival, as well as structure in poetry.

Birkerts, Sven. “Frank Bidart’s Ambivalent Appetite.” Review of Watching the Spring Festival. Boston Phoenix, June 17, 2008. Identifies the essence of Bidart’s vision as “the clarification and underscoring of ambivalence.” This is the focus of the short poems in Watching the Spring Festival just as in the earlier long poems.

Crenshaw, Brad. “The Sin of the Body: Frank Bidart’s...

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