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About this poet

Born in 1971, Stephen Burt was raised in Washington D.C. He attended Harvard University in Boston, graduating with an AB in 1994, and received his PhD in English from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2000.

Burt is the author of the poetry collections Belmont (Graywolf Press, 2013) and Parallel Play (Graywolf Press, 2006). About Burt's debut book Donald Revell wrote, "Stephen Burt has found a courage I’d never imagined until I read these poems. It is the courage to expound the consolations of terror, to declare that we are the ancients of ourselves, already more accustomed than we know to life in the ruins. With Parallel Play, Burt becomes the Cavafy of these former United States. It will be a privilege to await the barbarians in his good company."

Also a literary critic, Burt’s essay collection Close Calls with Nonsense (Graywolf Press, 2009) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other critical works include The Art of the Sonnet (Harvard University Press, 2010)The Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century Poetry (Columbia University Press, 2007); Randall Jarrell and His Age (Columbia University Press, 2002); and Popular Music (Center for Literary Publishing, 1999).

Burt is currently a professor of English at Harvard University. He lives in the suburbs of Boston with his spouse, Jessie Bennett, and their two children.


Bibliography

Poetry
Belmont (Graywolf Press, 2013)
Parallel Play (Graywolf Press, 2006).

Prose
The Art of the Sonnet (Harvard University Press, 2010)
Close Calls With Nonsense (Graywolf Press, 2009)
Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler (University of Virginia Press, 2009)
The Forms of Youth: Adolescence and 20th Century Poetry (Columbia University Press, 2007)
Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden (University Press, 2005)
Randall Jarrell and His Age (Columbia University Press, 2002)
Popular Music (Center for Literary Publishing, 1999)

At the Providence Zoo

Stephen Burt
Like the Beatles arriving from Britain,
the egret's descent on the pond
takes the reeds and visitors by storm:
it is a reconstructed marsh
environment, the next
best thing to living out your wild life.

                  *

Footbridges love the past.
And like the Roman questioner who learned
"the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg,"
flamingos are pleased to ignore us. It is not known
whether that Roman could learn to eat upside-down,
by dragging his tremendous head through streams.

                  *

Comical, stately, the newly-watched tortoises
mate; one pushes the other over the grass,
their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs
in toto. Together they make
a Sydney opera house,
a concatenation of anapests, almost a waltz.

                  *

Confined if not preserved,
schoolteachers, their charges, vigilant lemurs, wrens
and prestidigitating tamarins,
and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare
at one another, hot
and concave in their inappropriate coats.

Having watched a boa
eat a rat alive,
the shortest child does as she was told?
looks up, holds the right hand
of the buddy system, and stands,
as she explains it, "still as a piece of pie."

Copyright © Stephen Burt from Parallel Play (Graywolf, 2006). Reprinted with permission of the author.

Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt

A poet, literary critic, and English professor at Harvard University, Stephen Burt is the author of two poetry collections and a number of critical works.

by this poet

poem

No one should be this alone—
none of the pines
in their prepotent verticals,

none of the unseen
hunters or blundering moose
who might stop by the empty lodge or the lake

as blue as if there had never been people
although there are people: a few
at the general