Monday, May 6, 2013

Queer by Frank Bidart

by Frank Bidart

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.


For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial


forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.


Involuted velleities of self-erasure.


Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.


Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life.  You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939 and educated at the University of California at Riverside and at Harvard University, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.

His first volume of poetry, Golden State (1973), was selected by poetRichard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series, but it wasn't until the publication of The Sacrifice (1983) that Bidart's poetry began to attract a wider readership. Bidart's early books are collected in In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90 (1990).

His recent volumes include Star Dust (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005),Music Like Dirt (2002), and Desire (1997), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic's Circle Award. He is also the co-editor of Robert Lowell's Collected Poems (2003).

About his work, the former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück has said, "More fiercely, more obsessively, more profoundly than any poet sinceBerryman (whom he in no way resembles) Bidart explores individual guilt, the insoluble dilemma." And about his career as a poet, she said, "Since the publication, in 1973, of Golden State, Frank Bidart has patiently amassed as profound and original a body of work as any now being written in this country."

His honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation Writer's Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, and The Paris Review's first Bernard F. Conners Prize for "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky" in 1981. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry.

Bidart was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2003. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has taught at Wellesley College since 1972.


Anonymous said...

This is the BEST poem you have posted in a long time. I identify with it 100%. Thank you.

Peace <3

Jack Scott said...

I have to admit I had not read this poem before, but I could not agree more. Over the past couple of decades, I have worked with gay and bisexual men to impress upon them that they can lie to everyone else; but they simply cannot lie to themselves and maintain their mental and emotional health.

The men who have been willing quit lying to themselves have more often than not found a peace and a degree of happiness they had not previously known. Those who were unwilling to face the truth have all retreated back into their private lives and over time cut off our contact. I fear most of them are still living in their own private hell.

I have not one iota of doubt God in his wisdom created homosexuals and called it a good thing. All one has to do is look around at the unique contributions homosexuals have made throughout history to understand why they are an important gift to mankind.

It is such a shame, and a disgrace, that today the opposition to homosexuals is centered in those who claim to be the keepers of the Christian faith.

Jack Scott