Poetry: “Queer” by Frank Bidart

In honor of June being LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) Pride Month I share this poem from the Academy of American Poets collection of LGBTQ Poetry:

“Queer” by Frank Bidart

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That’s what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

*

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

*

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

*

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

*

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults’ genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

*

Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart who was born in California in 1939, was educated at the University of California at Riverside, and at Harvard University, and has taught at Wellesley College in Massachusetts since 1972.

For the past nine years he’s been a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets .

*

Bidart’s poetry collections:

  • Golden State, Braziller (New York, NY), 1973.
  • The Book of the Body, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1977.
  • The Sacrifice, Random House (New York, NY), 1983.
  • In the Western Night: Collected Poems, 1965-90, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1990.
  • Desire, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Music Like Dirt, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2002.
  • Star Dust (poems), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
  • Watching the Spring Festival, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2008
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26 Responses to Poetry: “Queer” by Frank Bidart

  1. Sybil says:

    Thanks for this Rosie. Important message.

  2. Mahalia says:

    ouch. happy pride week. it IS getting better. not fast enough, not soon enough, but, it is. here is a photo from last year (or is it 2010?) of christians at pride in chicago, saying “i’m sorry” for how LGBTIQ people have been treated by the church: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150893633431645&set=a.392944791644.171591.517561644&type=1&theater

    If the link doesn’t work, let me know. It is a lovely photograph.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mahalia,
      I’m glad to hear things are improving. I’d love to see the photo of the Christians in Chicago saying “I’m sorry” but the link doesn’t work.

  3. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    I didn’t know June was LGBTQ month, I have never heard of this before, it is a mouthful. It’s great that more attention is being shown in this area, and I think the poem is very well written. Thank You for again pointing to a wonderful poet.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags,
      I wonder whether you’re going to hear the term LGBTQ more often now that you know what it is. The poem is so sad. I just re-read these lines:

      “Everybody already knows everything
      so you can
      lie to them. That’s what they want.
      But lie to yourself, what you will
      lose is yourself. Then you
      turn into them.”

      I don’t know how you manage to follow so many blogs, and write comments in all of them, but I sure appreciate your comments.

  4. poetry says:

    Poetry relies on visual and oral communication to express one’s feeling.

  5. What thought provoking verses! Thank you. Shakti

  6. I’m so glad you shared this! It’s hauntingly piercing, isn’t it? Beautiful, but mostly because of it’s honesty. Any of us who have friends or family over the age of 60 and gay…can hear their voice in this. Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this sensitive issue. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen anymore but I remember all those teenage suicides a couple years ago…

  7. “Everybody already knows everything so you can lie to them.” Makes me think of someone in our family, which seemed to have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule about the person, who passed away several years ago. It was never acknowledged or discussed. It’s so hard to imagine not telling your own mother about the truth of yourself because she would blame herself in her ignorance and you wanted to spare her that pain. Poignant poem, Rosie – thanks for sharing. As a society and as families we have made some progress, but we still have a ways to go…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this sensitive issue. While some progress has been made so some countries do recognize same sex marriage – the list only includes 11 countries, and the USA is notably absent – so too many young people are still not able to tell their own mothers the truth.

      “As of 2012, eleven countries allow same-sex couples to marry nationwide: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden.”
      [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage]

      • It’s interesting how quickly we can take things for granted. Connecticut legalized civil unions in 2005 and progressed to legalizing same-sex marriage in 2008. Sometimes I forget that most of the USA is far behind us when it comes to granting gays their civil rights. Happy to see Norway is up to speed, too!

      • dearrosie says:

        Thank you for sharing the information that Connecticut is one of the few States that legalized same sex marriage. I didn’t know.

  8. Kathy says:

    How very powerful, Rosie. Thank you for sharing this. My heart softened with the raw emotion here. Thank you.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for sharing your feelings.

      The poem is so powerful that every time I re-read it (and I read it each time I reply to a comment), another line grabs my attention.

      these lines just jumped out at me
      “The door through which you were shoved out
      into the light
      was self-loathing and terror”

      “self loathing and terror”? oh man …

  9. Love this. And love that you put it up in honour of!

  10. Arindam says:

    It was a beautiful piece of writing. “lie to yourself, what you will lose is yourself”. This line is simply awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Arindam,
      I’m really glad to know that you liked the poem. I also think the line you chose is brilliant – especially when you consider he only used nine words …

  11. Poetry with so much truth and honesty. Life expressed in a beautiful and moving way. So true, “But lie to yourself, what you will

    lose is yourself. Then you
    turn into them.” Sometimes it is easier to blend than to go against the tides but as they say, “the truth will set you free.” Thanks for sharing a post that make us see things in a bright and hopeful perspective. Have a blessed day.

  12. dearrosie says:

    Hello IT
    I’m delighted to welcome you to this post to hear your thoughts about the poem. I agree that there is much truth and honesty in it. The quote you chose is the one that makes the hairs stand up on my arms its so brilliant…
    “…then you will turn into them.”

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