Frank Bidart has made an epic return to poetry, this time giving readers his latest collection, Metaphysical Dog, a work that dissects personal complexities in search for acceptance from within.
While nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his chapbook Star Dust, Bidart’s work has continued to be revered since his first poetry collection, Golden State, in 1973. Since that time, Bidart has showcased poetry with an adaptive ability to strike well and fast. Now, at 72-years-old, Bidart keeps readers enticed as we savor this deeply reflective collection.
Each piece is full of dynamic energy that keeps readers captivated. Such is the case with the poem “History,” a winding piece of symphonic beauty. In a sliver of the piece, Bidart writes: “What they left behind / they left behind / broken. The fiction / even they accepted, even they believed / was that once / it was whole. / Once it was whole / left all who swallowed it, / however skeptical, forever hungry.” Likewise, as readers, we are ravenous for the collection, swallowing each poem whole as it digests within us.
The work can be described as dark and erotic as Bidart switches from themes of death to sex. A striking commonality between them, as Bidart seems to suggest, exists with our curiosity. While sex and death are two immense themes within the contemporary work, Bidart places particular emphasis on his personal upbringing, faith, and homosexuality.
“Defrocked” is one such poem that encompasses those above themes as Bidart writes: “The true language of ecstasy / is the forbidden.” Here, Bidart transitions from his upbringing as an adolescent in the Roman Catholic Church to his first understanding of the “forbidden.” The defrocking then becomes tied to faith, both literally and figuratively, as he comes to his own sexual awakening. Bidart, while struggling with his feelings as a homosexual in a small farming town, then moves forward in accepting his identity without any need for validation.
Each poem seems to serve as a reflection posed in question. As each of the multifaceted pieces breaks down its walls, readers advance into a place of vulnerability and speculation. Over the course of the collection, Bidart comes to find those answers, as theory becomes growth, inner-strength, and assurance.
Metaphysical Dog is a burning and poignant read chock-full of lengthy prose to short, forceful pieces. As the collection has proved, time and time again, Bidart has continued to maintain his status as a prolific, unstoppable wordsmith.
[Published: The Weekender, 8 May 2013]