Metaphysical Dog

Finalist, National Book Awards 2013 for Poetry

Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart book cover
ISBN 9780374173616
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Frank Bidart author photo, credit: James Franco
Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart is the author of Metaphysical DogWatching the Spring FestivalStar DustDesire, and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-90. He has won many prizes, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the 2007 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

In “Those Nights,” Frank Bidart writes: “We who could get / somewhere through / words through / sex could not.” Words and sex, art and flesh: In Metaphysical Dog, Bidart explores their nexus. The result stands among this deeply adventurous poet’s most powerful and achieved work, an emotionally naked, fearlessly candid journey through many of the central axes, the central conflicts, of his life, and ours.

Near the end of the book, Bidart writes:

In adolescence, you thought your work
ancient work: to decipher at last

human beings’ relation to God. Decipher

love. To make what was once whole
whole again: or to see

why it never should have been thought whole.

This “ancient work” reflects what the poet sees as fundamental in human feeling, what psychologists and mystics have called the “hunger for the Absolute”—a hunger as fundamental as any physical hunger. This hunger must confront the elusiveness of the Absolute, our self-deluding, failed glimpses of it. The third section of the book is titled “History is a series of failed revelations.”

The result is one of the most fascinating and ambitious books of poetry in many years.

Judges Citation

Frank Bidart’s powerful new poems wrestle with the poet’s sexuality, obsessively rehearse his past, and violently collide with themselves. But for all their confessional qualities, they are also formally brilliant in their deft modulations of tone and their often strenuous line breaks and visual form, their tortuous bends and twists of syntax. Although Bidart prefers the rough hewn and blunt to the conventionally beautiful, his language sometimes borders on the mellifluous. A major achievement in a distinguished career.