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Metaphysical Dog: Poems

by Frank Bidart

Publishers Weekly "At seventy-two, the future is what I mourn," Bidart announces in this starkly inspiring eighth collection. The poet's spiky free reverse remains direct, sometimes even frightening, and clearer than ever before about mortality-his own death, and the deaths of his friends and his parents; and yet, perhaps in the spirit of anticipatory mourning, familiar interests-in old and new movies, terse metaphysical argument, and sex, especially sex between men- are all present. "The true language of ecstasy/ is the forbidden// language of the mystics," he says in "Defrocked," exploring the language of piety as well as of blasphemy as he returns to his Bakersfield, Calif., childhood and his family's Catholic belief. Bidart's taut lines investigate faith and doubt, art and yearning, erotic fulfillment and literary heritage, "fueled by the ruthless gaze that/ unshackled the chains shackling/ queer me in adolescence," even as they investigate their own premises; in "Writing 'Ellen West,' " they also ask how Bidart composed one of his own most famous poems. The new volume veers away from the interest in overt beauty, rendered in musical lines, that was evinced in Watching the Spring Festival (2009), leaning more in this volume on the wiry abstractions of Bidart's earlier work. At the same time, the poems of Metaphysical Dog are at once emotionally bracing and full of intellectual reward. Bidart is widely admired by other influential poets; he seems in line for even more attention than he has received. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Publishers Weekly "At seventy-two, the future is what I mourn," Bidart announces in this starkly inspiring eighth collection. The poet's spiky free reverse remains direct, sometimes even frightening, and clearer than ever before about mortality-his own death, and the deaths of his friends and his parents; and yet, perhaps in the spirit of anticipatory mourning, familiar interests-in old and new movies, terse metaphysical argument, and sex, especially sex between men- are all present. "The true language of ecstasy/ is the forbidden// language of the mystics," he says in "Defrocked," exploring the language of piety as well as of blasphemy as he returns to his Bakersfield, Calif., childhood and his family's Catholic belief. Bidart's taut lines investigate faith and doubt, art and yearning, erotic fulfillment and literary heritage, "fueled by the ruthless gaze that/ unshackled the chains shackling/ queer me in adolescence," even as they investigate their own premises; in "Writing 'Ellen West,' " they also ask how Bidart composed one of his own most famous poems. The new volume veers away from the interest in overt beauty, rendered in musical lines, that was evinced in Watching the Spring Festival (2009), leaning more in this volume on the wiry abstractions of Bidart's earlier work. At the same time, the poems of Metaphysical Dog are at once emotionally bracing and full of intellectual reward. Bidart is widely admired by other influential poets; he seems in line for even more attention than he has received. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal "Writing 'Ellen West'/ was exorcism," says Bollingen Prize winner Bidart in a gloss on his famous earlier poem about an anorexic from The Book of the Body (1977). Beneath that older poem, he uncovers a guilt-laden struggle for independence from his mother and the devastation he felt at her death: "This is the body that you can draw out of you to expel from you the desire to die." In fact, Bidart's theme from the beginning has been the burden of the body-how the soul's presence and absence are rooted in the physical: "Words/ are flesh." In this new book, terror and shame connected with the young body's flaws and differences-sexual and otherwise-ebb in the face of old age, a muted phase in which the body one loves best inhabits memory. The final poem, "For an Unwritten Opera," strikes a lyric, almost formal pose, invoking "magpie beauty"-a kind of separateness within unity that can shape itself into love. VERDICT Another restless exploration from a writer whose work defies conventionality and refuses to stop asking questions; for all poetry collections.-Ellen Kaufman, New York (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Bidart (Watching the Spring Festival, 2008), winner of the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, among many other awards, takes what is for him a radically personal approach in this candid and inquiring collection. A poet of refined distillation, Bidart writes with rare cogency and poignancy of the war between the mind and the body, ecstasy and obliteration, his mother's death, and his coming out. In reflections on the mysteries of being, Bidart uses the words crave, flesh, stone, soul, idea, and dream in a beautifully plangent philosophical calculus of longing. A master of the ready counterpoint of the couplet, Bidart can be tart and bemusing, as in the title poem with its dark twist, as well as richly emotive in his yearning for metaphysical clarity. As he explains in his notes, poems are curses, exorcism, prayer . . . the attempt to make someone or something live again. His, he declares, is an aesthetics of embodiment. There is a quiet, stirring grandeur here as Bidart contemplates the spectrum of existence, life's endless transformations, and our hunger for the absolute. --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.