cover image Against Silence

Against Silence

Frank Bidart. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (80p) ISBN 978-0-37460-351-9

"We were born into an amazing experiment," opens a poem early in Bidart's striking eighth collection, his first since winning both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016. The poem promptly revises that statement: "At least we thought we were." If Bidart is famous for his soliloquies and the essayistic quality of his lyric long poems, his new collection amplifies the undercurrent of uncertainty that has always supported those forms: "Dreaming, I dreamt the basket I held held/ words." His shimmering language is on display across the philosophical, autobiographical, and devotional styles these poems adopt, employing his signature play with capitalization and quotations. In "Hour of the Night," he writes: "The terrible law of desire is that what quickens desire is what is DIFFERENT." There and across the collection, Bidart intermittently turns to his family's complicity in racism with mixed results, but always with pathos as it explores formative childhood scenes. As the collection ends, Bidart returns to questions of mortality, finding in the present moment a mixing of times and of states of being: "Tonight, I abjure the wisdom, the illusion of/ forgetting." This collection is another memorable contribution to Bidart's oeuvre. (Sept.)