Metaphysical Dog

Farrar. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9780374173616. $24. POETRY
OrangeReviewStar"Writing 'Ellen West'/ was exorcism," says Bollingen Prize winner Bidart in a gloss on his famous earlier poem about an anorexic from The Book of the Body (1977). Beneath that older poem, he uncovers a guilt-laden struggle for independence from his mother and the devastation he felt at her death: "This is the body that you can draw out of you to expel from you the desire to die." In fact, Bidart's theme from the beginning has been the burden of the body—how the soul's presence and absence are rooted in the physical: "Words/ are flesh." In this new book, terror and shame connected with the young body's flaws and differences—sexual and otherwise—ebb in the face of old age, a muted phase in which the body one loves best inhabits memory. The final poem, "For an Unwritten Opera," strikes a lyric, almost formal pose, invoking "magpie beauty"—a kind of separateness within unity that can shape itself into love.
VERDICT Another restless exploration from a writer whose work defies conventionality and refuses to stop asking questions; for all poetry collections.
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