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Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically

Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically

(p.79) Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically
One Kind of Everything
Dan Chiasson
University of Chicago Press

Frank Bidart is the author of six books of poems, including Golden State (1971) and Star Dust (2005). “Autobiography” in Bidart has always meant the career and ultimately the fate of a voice. In some respects, Bidart represents the far-flung consequences of Reuben Brower's pragmatics of reading. His notion of what “actuality” sounds like, of precisely which acoustic arrangements or conditions might best convey the sensation of selfhood (and of “sincerity”) differs markedly from that of Robert Frost, whose theory of “sentence sounds” is based on the principle of overheard dialogue. Unlike Frost, Bidart tends to think of the voices prior to and subject to his poetics as complexly mediated by self-conscious performance. By naming an early poem “confessional” and by staging personal revelation so elaborately, Bidart's career is meant to historicize confessionalism. This chapter examines Bidart's long poem “Ellen West,” an adaptation of one of the case histories of the psychoanalyst Ludwig Binswanger, as well as his long elegy for Joe Brainard, “The Second Hour of the Night.”

Keywords:   Frank Bidart, autobiography, Ellen West, reading, Robert Frost, sentence sounds, voices, confessionalism, poems

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