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Review: 'To The Dead' by Frank Bidart

Updated on June 1, 2018
'There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT'
'There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT' | Source

To The Dead - Extract

What I hope (when I hope) is that we'll
see each other again,--

. . . and again reach the VEIN

in which we loved each other . .
It existed. It existed.

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--


Read the rest of the poem at PoetHunter

4 stars for To The Dead

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 se 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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