Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Half-light

Half-light

Collected Poems 1965-2016

Frank Bidart

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

BUY THE BOOK

National Book Awards Winner

National Book Awards Finalist

WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices

Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. 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. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience.

Half-light encompasses all of Bidart’s previous books, and also includes a new collection, Thirst, in which the poet austerely surveys his life, laying it plain for us before venturing into something new and unknown. Here Bidart finds himself a “Creature coterminous with thirst,” still longing, still searching in himself, one of the “queers of the universe.”

Visionary and revelatory, intimate and unguarded, Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2017 are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframe… More…

WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

The collected works of one of contemporary poetry’s most original voices

Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. 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. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience.

Half-light encompasses all of Bidart’s previous books, and also includes a new collection, Thirst, in which the poet austerely surveys his life, laying it plain for us before venturing into something new and unknown. Here Bidart finds himself a “Creature coterminous with thirst,” still longing, still searching in himself, one of the “queers of the universe.”

Visionary and revelatory, intimate and unguarded, Bidart’s Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2017 are a radical confrontation with human nature, a conflict eternally renewed and reframed, restless line by restless line.

Less…

Washington Post Best Books of the Year, National Book Awards Winner, National Book Awards Finalist

Praise for Half-light

WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

"[Half-light] comprises fifty years' worth of daring, revelatory poems. For me, it's the book not just of the year but of the decade." —Garth Greenwell, Bookforum

"[Frank Bidart's] poetry over five decades has volubly modeled a wholly new approach to autobiographical material, chiefly by giving voice to the inner travails of other people's lives, both real and imagined . . . The publication of Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 gives readers a chance to see how Bidart, ill content merely to 'say what happened' in prefab stanzas, performs a poetry of 'embodiment' . . . Throughout his career, Bidart's self-devoting genius has been his ability to transform a poem into a vocalized (albeit anguished) performance of consciousness and moral interrogation, an occasion for metaphysical speculation as intense and oracular as any Shakespearean monologue or philosophical treatise . . . Sublime . . . Mesmerizing . . . Bidart avoids the pitfalls of therapeutic poetry by ennobling thought itself. There's something heroic in the maverick poet who shirks conventional aesthetics to make a temple of the mind . . . Let's pray his poems continue to aim at the most pressing issues. We need new examples of ways to be free, to slip the constraints of art and life." —Major Jackson, The New York Times Book Review

"Made up of the seventy-eight-year-old author’s eight previous volumes o… More…

WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

"[Half-light] comprises fifty years' worth of daring, revelatory poems. For me, it's the book not just of the year but of the decade." —Garth Greenwell, Bookforum

"[Frank Bidart's] poetry over five decades has volubly modeled a wholly new approach to autobiographical material, chiefly by giving voice to the inner travails of other people's lives, both real and imagined . . . The publication of Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 gives readers a chance to see how Bidart, ill content merely to 'say what happened' in prefab stanzas, performs a poetry of 'embodiment' . . . Throughout his career, Bidart's self-devoting genius has been his ability to transform a poem into a vocalized (albeit anguished) performance of consciousness and moral interrogation, an occasion for metaphysical speculation as intense and oracular as any Shakespearean monologue or philosophical treatise . . . Sublime . . . Mesmerizing . . . Bidart avoids the pitfalls of therapeutic poetry by ennobling thought itself. There's something heroic in the maverick poet who shirks conventional aesthetics to make a temple of the mind . . . Let's pray his poems continue to aim at the most pressing issues. We need new examples of ways to be free, to slip the constraints of art and life." —Major Jackson, The New York Times Book Review

"Made up of the seventy-eight-year-old author’s eight previous volumes of verse and a new sequence—the bold and elegiac ThirstHalf-light is both the culmination of a distinguished career and a poetic ur-text about how homophobia, doubt, and a parent’s confusing love can shape a gay child . . . The collection is a fraught song of the self, composed of subtleties and exclamations . . . True emotion demands a dialogue, and, like James Merrill’s extraordinary work The Changing Light at Sandover, Bidart’s poems are a kind of séance, one in which he tries to invoke and communicate love, even if that love can no longer be achieved, tasted, seen, touched. The poems that Bidart wrote for his lost ones are a testament to the conversations he holds in his head, written with force from the confines of a limitless gay body." —Hilton Als, The New Yorker

"Frank Bidart has long challenged readers—and convention—with a complexity and originality not often seen in American poetry. Now with Half-light: Collected Poems 1965–2016, readers can gain a deeper understanding of how Bidart’s writing works together to create a vast, manifold narrative . . . The book closes with an ambitious section of new writing that deals with mortality and remembered friendships, a fitting way to end this monumental work." —Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post

"Stunning . . . Outstanding." —Gregg Shapiro, The Bay Area Reporter

"A massive book that covers 50 years of words, Bidart’s collected contains enough routes and themes to produce years of reading. His style—capitalized words, italics, shifting speakers, personae, autobiography—result in a modern mythmaker who channels the old masters. A poet finely attuned to the contours of sensuality, he can simultaneously be spare and weighty." —Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

"Frank Bidart's Collected Poems is a true monument—not only the sum of fifty years as one of America’s leading poets, but also the release of a new collection (an event in itself) titled Thirst. Bidart is likely best known for the characters he puts into his poems . . . and the Collected is an opportunity to view these monologues all in conversation. It is also a chance to take stock of his innovations in poetic form—how they have developed throughout his career and how they have influenced the literary world. This is a big, big book—well over 700 pages—one to take one’s time with and to savor." —Scott Esposito, Lit Hub

"Half-light is a tremendous literary event. One of the undisputed master poets of our time, Frank Bidart eats and breathes the high culture of the twentieth century, from the music of Callas and Edith Piaf to the monuments of classic cinema. But Bidart is no mere aesthete; for him, art is a supreme life force, water in the desert of the soul, a talisman against oblivion. Over his long career, Bidart has honed and refined his relentlessly intense voice, distilling it down to an essential expression of need and desire, of how art, if it can’t save us, can at least embody and preserve us: ‘Because existence is willy-nilly thrust into our hands, our fate is to make something—if nothing else, the shape cut by the arc of our lives.’ Reading him, we feel less alone in our cosmic aloneness." —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR.org

"Relentless and ever willing to face his demons, no matter how terrifying, in the interest of making great art, Bidart is, to my ear, one of the very few major living poets who never wavers, never repeats himself (though he has always orbited the same concerns), and extends his questing and questioning through each new work. This collected poems is an almost overwhelming bounty, a permanent book." —Publishers Weekly

"Art of first order . . . Truly remarkable." —Piotr Florczyk, New Orleans Review

Less…

Reviews from Goodreads

Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart is the author of Metaphysical Dog (FSG, 2013), Watching the Spring Festival (FSG, 2008), Star Dust (FSG, 2005), Desire (FSG, 1997), and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (FSG, 1990). He has won many prizes, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the 2007 Bollingen Prize in American Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at Wellesley College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

image of Frank Bidarto
Sigrid Estrada

Frank Bidart

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook

LATEST ON TWITTER