In Against Silence, Bidart writes of the cycles we cannot escape and the feelings we cannot forget. Our history is not a tabula rasa but a repeating, refining story of love and hate, of words spoken and old cruelties enacted. Moving among the dead and the living, the figures of his life and of his past, Bidart calls reality forth—with nothing settled and nothing forgotten, we must speak.
Striking ... 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 ... His shimmering language is on display across the philosophical, autobiographical, and devotional styles these poems adopt, employing his signature play with capitalization and quotations ... 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 ... This collection is another memorable contribution to Bidart's oeuvre.
Dylan Thomas famously wrote 'Old age should burn and rave at close of day,' advice expertly followed by Bidart, now 82, in this new...smoldering collection of forthright lyric poems ... Though sometimes uncomfortable to read, Bidart’s unleavened expressions of disillusionment, despair, and futility in the face of age...are acts of resistance against the inevitability of death. Their blunt force may escape younger poetry lovers but will resonate poignantly with older generations of readers.
For Bidart, looking different was pursuant to sounding different. Dynamic, radical enjambment; unconventional typography; expressive capitalization: his poems look, emphatically, like no one else’s. Yet his vers libre intoxicates a reader as much as any traditional prosodic shape: read Bidart aloud and hear how thoroughly a human voice can be 'fastened' onto the page ... Labor of refinement and clarification, while understandable and noble, does hamper some of the first section’s momentum ... The proximity of the expiration of flesh has made for some of the most affecting poems here, like 'On My Seventy-Eighth,' whose alternating long and short lines veer between vigorous bel canto and solemn sotto voce ... Against Silence memorably sees our greatest living poet of the flesh expressing and assessing fear of flesh’s end, of dispensability, of desire’s flame dimming to mere flicker ... Bidart, when fearful, is ever careful to remind himself what his poems have long reminded us: 'Come, / give up silence,' he writes. The poet and reader keen to censor, ironize, or infantilize their own desires will find in the work of Frank Bidart a half-century-long rebuttal.