Wellesley Professor Frank Bidart Wins National Book Award for Poetry

November 17, 2017
Half-Light Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and professor of English at Wellesley, has won the National Book Award for poetry for his 2017 collection, Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965–2016. It was announced in October that he was a finalist for the award.

Several of Bidart’s works have been nominated for the National Book Award, and he’s also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for his 2013 volume, Metaphysical Dog.

 “Anybody who steps into the world of Frank’s collected poems wants to remain there as long as possible,” said Professor of English Dan Chiasson, also a poet and critic. “We read him for the extraordinary beauty, pathos, humor, and devastation of his poems…and the path they cut through a cosmos not always welcoming or game to be understood. This award went to an artist operating in his 70s, at the frontier of what poetry can do in a world less and less accommodating to art of the highest caliber.”

Bidart received the award at a ceremony November 15 in New York hosted by actress, director, and activist Cynthia Nixon. In his acceptance speech, Bidart suggested that it was not just a life of poetry contained in his winning book, but also a life made by poetry. “I realized that I’m almost twice as old as any of the other finalists,” Bidart told the audience. “Writing the poems was how I survived…I hope that the journeys these poems go on will help others to survive as well.”

Winners of the National Book Awards receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.