Frank Bidart

One of the most celebrated contemporary poets in America, whose turbulent works often use variations in form and punctuation to underscore physical and emotional turmoil, will anchor the Longwood Authors Series in an unmissable lecture this spring.

Frank Bidart, a poet who began his career in the 1970s and gained widespread critical success with his 1983 work “The Sacrifice,” won both the 2017 National Book Award and the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his most recent collection Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016.

At a Glance

WHO: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Frank Bidart
WHAT: Longwood Authors Series lecture
WHEN: Monday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Wygal Auditorium, reception to follow

“Frank Bidart is one of the truly major figures in contemporary poetry,” said Dr. Craig Challender, professor of modern American literature, who has taught poetry at Longwood for 35 years. “His work stands with the great American poets—Eliot, Plath, Hughes—and he is celebrated and taught in classrooms around the country, including at Longwood. His unflinching approach to difficult, and often taboo, subject matter cuts straight to the heart of the human experience. We are elated to have such a master of the craft come to Longwood and share his work.”

Bidart’s poetry has been celebrated as underscored by raw emotion and difficult subject matter, exemplified in one of his earliest critical successes, “Ellen West,” the saga of an anorexic woman tormented by desire and need. The poem begins:

I love sweets,—

                                heaven

Would be dying on a bed of vanilla ice cream …

 

But my true self

is thin, all profile

 

and effortless gestures, the sort of blond

elegant girl whose

                                    body is the image of her soul.

“Writing the poems was how I survived,” he said in his acceptance speech for the National Book Award in 2017. “My sense is that all human beings alive have enormous schisms in their experience. Terrifying schisms within our feelings, and within what we discover the world to be. One premise of art is that anything personal seen deeply enough becomes general, becomes impersonal. I hope that the journeys these poems go on will help others survive as well.”

Bidart is the Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities and professor of English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1972.

Longwood students, faculty and staff, as well as the wider Prince Edward community, are warmly invited to attend Bidart’s lecture and to meet the poet at a reception following in the Haga Room in Wygal Hall.

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