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Stephanie Burt

Stephanie Burt was born in 1971 and raised in Washington, D.C. She received a BA from Harvard University in 1994 and a PhD in English from Yale University in 2000.

Burt, who has published under the name Stephen, is the author of the poetry collections Advice from the Lights (Graywolf Press, 2017), Belmont (Graywolf Press, 2013), and Parallel Play (Graywolf Press, 2006). About her debut book Donald Revell writes, "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 is the author of The Poem Is You (Harvard Unviersity Press, 2016); Close Calls with Nonsense (Graywolf Press, 2009), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Art of the Sonnet (Harvard University Press, 2010); and Popular Music (Center for Literary Publishing, 1999), among others.

Burt is currently a professor of English at Harvard University. She lives in the suburbs of Boston, Massachussetts.


Bibliography

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

Prose
The Poem Is You (Harvard University Press, 2016)
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)

Jessica Bennett

By This Poet

5

At the Providence Zoo

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."

Indian Stream Republic

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 store, and evidence of more

in clean vinyl siding, and down the extended street
a ruddy steel pole the height of a child, its plaque
remembering a place called Liberty

at Indian Stream
, 1832-35,
between the disputed boundaries
of Canada and New Hampshire, meant

as temporary, almost
content to remain its own.
Each household, their constitution said, could possess

one cow, one hog, one gun,
books, bedding and hay, seven sheep and their wool, secure
from attachment for debt no matter the cause.

The state militia came to set them right.
The legerdemain of the noon sun through needles and leaves,
revealing almost nothing, falls across

thin shadows, thin trace of American wheels and hands
for such high soil and such short reward:
the people... do hereby mutually agree

to form themselves into a body politic
by the name of Indian Stream, and in that capacity
to exercise all the powers of a sovereign

till such time as we can ascertain to what
government we properly belong.

Silt

Things you know but can’t say,
the sort of things, or propositions
that build up week after week at the end of the day,

& have to be dredged
by the practical operators so that their grosser cargo
& barges & boxy schedules can stay.

The great shovels and beaks and the rolling gantries
of Long Beach, and of Elizabeth, New Jersey,
can keep their high and rigorous distinction
between on-time and late, between work and play.

“Since you excluded me, I will represent you,
not meanly but generously, with an attention
that is itself

a revenge, since it shows that I know you

better than you have ever known yourselves,

that if I could never have learned
how to be you, nor how to be
somebody you’d like to be very near, nevertheless

you could not do without me, or keep me away.”
 

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