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Metaphysical Dog

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  28 reviews
National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
A National Book Award Finalist

A vital, searching new collection from one of finest American poets at work today

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 dee...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Dec 05, 2013 s.penkevich rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Puma
Shelves: poetry
The door through which you were shoved out
into the light
was self-loathing and terror.

Careening through time and space, having pushed onto the stage of life without any of our own consent, we find ourselves hungering for meaning, hungering for an Absolute. Through the most difficult of times we discover the food for our souls that can best nourish us, yet discover that our bodies, our flesh, is set on an irreversible path towards rot and ruin. Frank Bidart’s confessional collection, ‘Metaphysic...more
William Reichard
Bidart has long been a favorite poet of mine, and I went into this collection with excitement and high expectations. What I found was a book with a fascinating premise - a series of poems that focus on the search for the absolute, the Platonic ideal, and the often disappointing realities one finds when searching for such perfection. Philosophically, this is a wonderful collection - one of Bidart's most searching books. But the poems themselves often disappoint. Bidart is so focused on his philos...more
Cheston Knapp (Managing editor of Tin House): I really hate it how some folks talk about poetry as though it were that flavor of jelly belly you carefully pick around, like buttered popcorn or jelly or, if they don’t have the gene (the Pleasure Gene), licorice. How they act like poetry is some course you can skip. As though it were not an entire fucking meal. So I’ve been dining out on some poetry. I am just finishing up Frank Bidart’s new book, Metaphysical Dog: Poems, which is like sitting dow...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I picked this up because it was longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry in September 2013.

I didn't really connect with these poems, partly because you could really feel the age of the poet throughout. He has been there, lived it, and is now reflecting. He writes tributes to opera singers. I can tell he has regrets and I think I may enjoy his earlier works more.
Pete Mackey
These poems are so fresh, so vivid and sure. Bidart's work reads like that of a mystic with an agnostic's resolve, a lover of language fearless about philosophizing, sparingly, humbly, who is bared to the ripeness of the moment, the resonant cultural instance and who speaks in phrases newly born but that somehow seem borne from ages ago. The work is simply ALIVE. My list of favorites here includes "Queer," "Dream of the Book," "As You Crave Soul," "Mouth," "Of His Bones Are Coral Made," and "For...more
Jim Coughenour
Poetry makes me want to sound poetic, which is a disaster I won’t evade in this review. Every so often I chance upon a book that for a couple intense hours takes me somewhere else – I said to myself this morning after I pricked my way through Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog. In the course of that intensity, my mind is outside of my body and body is outside of my skin, something akin to Houseman’s dangerous definition of poetry:
Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep wat
James Murphy
Everybody already knows everything and so everybody is alike, turning into everybody else. Couples only stay together as long as they're necessary to each other. Words are flesh working to become idea. These are some of the thoughts explored in Bidart's Metaphysical Dog. They're poems in which ideas come to the surface slowly. They're arrived at, and the reader is often surprised by them. The form of the poems is sometimes couplets, sometimes single lines. And they seem aphoristic, so that the s...more
Nov 14, 2013 Liam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This represents one of the better collections I have read in 2013. So far I have read 51 poetry books this year. What I liked was the accessibility, the poems make sense to me. They cover sex, love, relationships, death, grieving, that sense of belonging; the regular gamut of poetry. As a gay poet writing sometimes on gay themes, his work takes a twist pauses you to think and perhaps react like: oh he's talking about man on man love or sex. I found it interesting and easy to relate to as a gay r...more
Maughn Gregory
Add Bidart to the list of poets I will follow backward and forward, for telling truths like this:

"You cannot tell if
addictions, secret, narcotic,

damage or enlarge
mind, through which you seize the world." (102)
Bidart continues in the mostly lyrical, searching voice he's cultivated since Desire, and he finds a wonderful, quiet grace in these pages.
Heady, difficult poetry that is assuredly WELL worth the time. The "Metaphysical Dog" in this book of poetry is not the poet's dog, Belafont -- by the way, interesting pun there for Belafont, literally translates as "beautiful print" or "beautiful writing." Nope, the metaphysical "dog" is the poet, Frank Bidart, who suffers from a pretty low sense of worth but whose humility is not a false one, no less, for it is bound to when contemplating such difficult, deep subjects.

An "emotionally naked, fe...more
I'd not read Bidart before. This is gorgeous stuff. I will now go find all his others.
Philip Gordon
"Magpie beauty."

A phrase that opens (virtually) and closes this collection of poems might strike at the aims of its aesthetic sensibilities; repetition, revisiting, and introspection tread on repeatedly, all in search of a deeper pathos that seems just slightly out of reach.

Frank Bidart is obviously a capable poet. When he aims to do so, his poems strike out at the heart of human matter, or matter of life in general. The opening and titular poem, "Metaphysical Dog", sets the collection on a grim...more
This was one of two books of poetry included in the 2013 New York Times 100 best books of the year. I think they could have made a better choice. Two poems in here I found interesting, "Whitman" and ""As You Crave Soul." The rest I really had no response to. They didn't seem to be saying anything interesting or coherent. Perhaps I should try again, but I already have several other collections of poetry waiting for my attention, so I'll pass on seconds this time.
Patricia Murphy
Glad I read Bidart and Strand back to back--lots of echoes here.

Some of my favorite moments:

“How dare being
give him this body.”

“No use for him to tell himself that he shouldn’t feel this because he felt this.”

“He thought his mother, without knowing that this is what she wanted, wanted him to die.”

“What others think is food isn’t food.”

“Everyone is buying but not everyone wants to buy you.”

“Seduced not by a book but by the idea
of a book.”
Ashley Cale
A semester of Modern Poetry with Frank Bidart was an unforgettable experience! Someone who irrevocably inspires your interpretations of poetry and both enjoys and encourages the deep, prodding, often unanswerable questions in life in our discussions. Beautiful poems written by an equally remarkable soul!
I really loved the poem "Writing 'Ellen West'." Quite a few of these poems seem heavily autobiographical. I liked many of them, but reading them all together quite quickly, I found that they weren't as attentive to language as I would like and were very narrative (which I actually like). I felt like they got a little bogged down in narrative and explanation.
But I look forward to rereading many of these poems in anticipation of our book club meeting, and seeing how my response to the poems change...more
Nicole Testa
Socially and politically conscious, while still feeling deeply personal, while never feeling preachy or demanding. A very good read.
Tyler Weathers
Enough of this guy. No where near earlier works. Time to retire.
dark. sad. intense. Bidart!

I much prefer his collection Star Dust.
Joey Gamble
Supremely disappointing.
Tiffin-Seneca Public Library
This is a terrific collection by Bidart. I hate to use the term "human experience" too much, but that's really what Bidart focuses on. But instead of focusing on what we learn, he looks more at what we never know.

The end of Writing "Ellen West", the second poem in this collection, describes "One more poem, one more book in which you figure out how to make something out of not knowing enough". Bidart at his best.
Patti K
This 2013 volume is the latest in Bidart's long successful career. It concerns
the ideas that are behind are actions or desires. The hunger for the absolute,
the embodiment of everything, not just of mind is his focus. Many are forthright
and clear, while others are rather dense and elliptical. Gay sexuality, his
childhood, his mother, his lovers, his hungers are his ground from which he
meticulously works.
"When what we understand about/what we are/changes, whole/parts of us fall mute."

Poems about death, parents, sex, and sometimes dogs (or oblique references to dogs).

"One more poem, one more book in which you figure out how to/make something out of not knowing enough."

Favorite poems:

"Writing 'Ellen West'"
Slow-form mastery. So much fun to read aloud.

I like:

"one day, staring at the mountain
you ceased to ask

Open Sesame

merely requiring that narrative reveal
something structural about the world."



Astoundingly good. Painfully true.
Carol marked it as to-read
Sep 29, 2014
Patrick Dunlop
Patrick Dunlop marked it as to-read
Sep 28, 2014
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Share This Book

“I'm not a fool, I knew from the beginning
what couldn't happen. What couldn't happen

didn't. The enterprise is abandoned.

But half our life is
dreams, delirium, everything that underlies

that feeds

that keeps alive the illusion of sanity, semi-
sanity, we allow

others to see. The half of me that feeds the rest

is in mourning. Mourns. Each time we must
mourn, we fear this is the final mourning, this time

mourning never will lift.”
“The gestures poems make are the same as the gestures of ritual injunction — curse; exorcism; prayer; underlying everything perhaps, the attempt to make someone or something live again. Both poet and shaman make a model that stands for the whole. Substitution, symbolic substitution. The mind conceives that something lived, or might live. Implicit is the demand to understand. The memorial that is ward and warning. Without these ancient springs poems are merely more words.” 1 likes
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