I’ve only started reading poetry (for pleasure) within the last year. Being forced to read poetry is one of the most painful things, in the world of homework, I’ve ever experienced. So, for me, finding poetry that I enjoy reading is an incredible experience.
When I saw the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Frank Bidart for poetry, I was immediately interested. The title of the collection is Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, and I was intrigued by the fact that these poems span such a vast number of years. Each person’s voice changes with them as they meet new people, experience new things, and I think that that would really be apparent in including poetry from several different decades into one volume.
As I read the description of the work, I was interested by amount of voices that Bidart apparently uses in his work:
“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.”
Taking on a range of voices is incredibly difficult to do. A lot of my own writing revolves around the same themes, attacking the same ideas. I often find myself writing similar characters with similar experiences, and while I think those characters are important, I do think that being able to write different characters and experiences is incredibly important as well. It’s something I’ve really tried to work on this last year in my creative writing.
I found myself reading a Bustle article about the book. E. Ce Miller praises Bidart’s work and discusses the vast amount of topics and issues that he covers, also commenting on the way he writes and the style he uses:
“Bidart is hardly known for being a traditional poet — instead, he is one who plays with typography, word arrangement, and meandering monologues, and utilizes unconventional punctuation and capitalization. His collections have explored a wide range of themes from the darker corners of the human psyche: guilt, murder, eating disorders, disease, illness, death; but also revels in experiences of sex, love, and the desire to live.”
When reading prose, I love looking at different types of formalism and seeing how writers break the traditional realms of writing. From my understanding, Bidart takes the liberties of breaking those rules as well.
I’m also curious how he chooses to handle the topics mentioned above because I think that many of them are difficult to talk about.
Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the book at some point, but until then, here’s a video of Bidart reading some of his poetry. I really enjoyed “Queer” (4:52).