'Half-light' By Frank Bidart Just Won The Pulitzer Prize, So You Should Probably Read It This National Poetry Month
If you’re looking for a little something else to add to your TBR pile this National Poetry Month, you might want to consider Frank Bidart. Bidart was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 — announced on April 16 by Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy. This isn't the first time the poet, whose debut collection was published in 1973, has been noticed by the Pulitzer Prize board. His 2002 collection, Star Dust, was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; though Half-light — which was also awarded the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry — will be his first win. Other 2018 nominees include Patricia Smith for her collection, Incendiary Art; and Evie Shockley for semiautomatic.
Bidart is hardly known for being a traditional poet — instead, he is one who plays with typography, word arrangement, and meandering monologues, and utilizes unconventional punctuation and capitalization. His collections have explored a wide range of themes from the darker corners of the human psyche: guilt, murder, eating disorders, disease, illness, death; but also revels in experiences of sex, love, and the desire to live. Bidart often takes on the voice of somewhat obscure and troubled figures (of the fictional and/or 15 minutes of fame kind) from history: the child-murderer Herbert White, the 19th century anorexia-sufferer Ellen West, and 20th century ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. His verse loves the stories of outcasts and misfits; anyone who isn't quite at home in the world.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Half-light, gathers together the best of Bidart’s poetry from the last 50 years, taking an unflinching look at humanity in all its expressions and manifestations: the compassionate and the beautiful, the violent and the obsessive, the outcast and the misunderstood, the vulnerable and the brave, the complex and the brilliant.
The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry — which recognizes a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, and comes with a sizable $15,000 reward this year — was first awarded in 1922, five years after the first Pulitzers were celebrated in 1917. Recent, and widely-recognized past winners include Tyehimba Jess, for his 2016 collection Olio; Peter Balakian, for his 2015 collection Ozone Journal, Sharon Olds for Stag's Leap in 2013; Tracy K. Smith for her 2011 title, Life on Mars; and Natasha Trethewey for Native Guard in 2007. (Feel free to add those to your TBR pile now, too.)
For a full list of the winners and finalists, visit the Pulitzer Prize official website.