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To The Dead - Poetry Review

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published November 1st 2012
Elegy by Frank Bidart
frank bidart
photo Jerry Bauer

Frank Bidart is a Californian poet, born in 1939. His first collection of poetry was called Golden State, which was published in 1973. His 1997 collection, Desire was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and he was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic's Circle.

Birdart's poem 'To The Dead' was first published in 1984 and can be found in In The Western Night: Collected Poems, 19651990.

A disjointed structure of stanzas sets the contemplative mood of 'To The Dead', which portrays how ones' thoughts are in a constant state of disarray.

Frank Bidart shows through the use of ellipsis how your mind can trial off from its train of thought and take you to other places, such as when the narrator is thinking about detectives 'in The Gorilla' and then they remember that 'once we'd been battered by the gorilla'. Each stanza represents a different train of thought.

Just as when people talk, they are constantly re-phrasing, or when someone writes, they are constantly re-writing; Bidart expresses how ideas and memories are revised inside our head, making the poem seem effortlessly written.

The poem is very much a dirge to someone the narrator once loved, but has now passed away, and he is hoping that they'll /be able to 'see each other again'. The disconnected lines in this fashion show the narrator's stated of mind; the pain of losing someone means he is less able to express himself clearly, just trying to remember all the good times that they had together in one go. Each memory leads to another.

Bidart's use of capitalisation for particular words like 'NIGHT' does not seem to work in giving the emphasis that he was most likely after; instead it just look more like shouting, which would be out of place in such a calm reflection of good times shared with loved ones.

To The Dead' is a beautiful poem, effectively written in an original style of disjointed stanzas to created the sense of a displaced and morbid mind, but fails to keep the tonality of the poem consistent.
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Why? Beautiful poem to read
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Cost: Free to read onine
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