Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Muse: Stephen Burt on Poetry

. . . I understand the world best, most fully, in words
. . . and when I have a new experience or a new feeling,
I'm a little  frustrated until I can try to put it into words. . . .
~ Poet Stephen Burt

In the video below, poet, literary critic, and essayist Stephen Burt gives a talk at TEDGlobal on poetry and why we need it and, to illustrate his points, shares poems by A.E. Housman, Rae Armantrout, and Wallace Stevens.

Some highlights from Burt's talk:

✦ ". . . we are all going to die. Poetry can help us live with that. . . . " 

✦ "Poems, the patterns in poems, show us not just what somebody thought or what someone did or what happened but what it was like to be a person like that, to be so anxious, so lonely, so inquisitive, so goofy, so preposterous, so brave. That's why poems can seem at once so durable, so personal and so ephemeral, like something inside and outside you at once. . . ."

✦ "It's easier than ever to find poems that might stay inside you, that might stay with you, . . . Poems can help you say, help you show how you're feeling, but they can also introduce you to feelings, ways of being in the world. . . Some poems even tell you that this is what they can do. . . ."

A professor of English at Harvard, Burt is the author of Belmont (Graywolf Press, 2013) and Parallel Play: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2006), among other poetry collections. His criticism and other works includes, most recently, The Art of the Sonnet, co-authored with David Mikics (Belknap Press, 2011; Harvard University Press, 2010), Something Understood: Essays and Poetry for Helen Vendler (University of Virginia Press, 2009), and Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (Graywolf Press, 2009), a book of essays that was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Stephen Burt Website (You will find here information about Burt's books, criticism, interviews, and appearances, as well as audio and video features and poems.)

Stephen Burt on FaceBook and Twitter

Adam Plunkett, "The Poetry World's Most Indiscriminate Fanboy", New Republic, October 26, 2013

Rebecca Ariel Porte, "An Interview with Stephen Burt", Bookslut, September 2013

Mark Oppenheimer, "Stephen Burt, Poetry's Cross-Dressing Kingmaker", The New York Times, September 14, 2012

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