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Peonies

Stephanie Burt, 10 April 2008

...         Yes, another poem about flowers and kids. Our son thinks this one is a ball, or full of balls: like jesters’ caps with bells, one for each stem, or old pawnbrokers’ signs, the lot next door in rainy April weather dangles, and then in sunlight lifts, what he believes he ought to pluck and grasp and throw, if we would let him. Little does he know how each bud, given cues from symbiotic ants, will open up pink surface after surface, flagrant scraps of incandescent fabric coming loose like grown-ups’ lives or last month’s local news, like promises, or generosity, or overuse ...

My 1981

Stephanie Burt, 19 October 2016

... Everyone’s younger sibling was still in a stroller, learning to drink from a cup or put on a dress. Everyone’s mom was overseeing additions to our beige, orange and air-conditioned kitchens, choosing the tiles: cake batter, peach, mallow, rose-pink. They matched the crayons that matched our skins. Everyone’s dad was a lawyer, or else in government service ...

Two Poems

Stephanie Burt, 8 April 2010

... Hyperborea after Pindar, Olympian 3 Once past the man-high teeth and the disintegrating ice that separate human lands from the gods’ secret territory, what Herakles found was nothing on first sight worth even half a breath to the sort of fortune-tellers and singers who vaunt celebrities’ pleasures, who promise new heroes the solace of willing nymphets and smooth-shouldered boys, then give them marble busts and sapphire crowns ...

Sparrows in the Natick Collection

Stephanie Burt, 21 June 2018

... I was not born here. But it’s here that we feel safe. Above the near- ly clear perpendicular rafters, each split sunbeam apportions its angles over the bald spots, scarves, bedazzled baseball caps, and effervescent water-features four stories under us, over the shadows a gaggle of us throw down when we dive for crumbs or popcorn nibs. So little we need ...

Two Poems

Stephanie Burt, 7 May 2014

... Tourmalines I used to collect them; they gather a charge under pressure, piezoelectric (I was proud to know the word), semi-precious when clear, pink or green; mine were half an inch thick, striated, unpopular, cheap enough to hoard. In science museums and gift shops I learned to detect them amid the stacks of greater souvenirs. At the Smithsonian’s cavernous Museum of Natural History, for example, on the first floor, to the right, in the minerals hall behind the apparently ravenous wooden T ...

Four poems after Callimachus

Stephanie Burt, 6 February 2020

... Epigrams, 22)Visual depictions of suicide kill.          We buried Melanie that morning;the day after, Basil died.          I don’t know what he saw,or what she did, but I know          I’ve seen too many pictures of obliviondone up as heaven –This isn’t a poem so much as a warning.          We’re going to be sad for a while ...

On Sophie Collins

Stephanie Burt: Sophie Collins, 18 July 2019

... A ‘Mary Sue’​ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment ...

Diary

Stephanie Burt: My Life as Stephanie, 11 April 2013

... with black-on-black pattern, two sparkly bracelets, a knit scarf and a claret lipstick. I went by Stephanie all day. I’ve been dressing up as a woman, or a girl, on select occasions, for almost two decades; I stopped for a while when I was an untenured professor, and when our children were very young, but I missed it more each year. My wife knows all about ...

Plastigoop

Stephanie Burt: Lucia Perillo, 17 November 2016

Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones: Selected and New Poems 
by Lucia Perillo.
Copper Canyon, 239 pp., $23, February 2016, 978 1 55659 473 1
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... Lucia Perillo​ , who died on 16 October, was a poet who liked jokes. That’s not unusual in itself, but she also wrote on topics that may disgust you, or ones that you may think funny poetry ordinarily has no right to address: disease, decay, physical humiliation and several kinds of disability, among them her own. In 1988 she learned that she had multiple sclerosis; she long used a wheelchair and required help with daily tasks, and this fact can look like a thread that runs through her seven collections of poetry, even though MS itself is addressed only glancingly or indirectly, as one among many ways that bodies break down ...

On Hera Lindsay Bird

Stephanie Burt: Hera Lindsay Bird, 30 November 2017

... Poetry​ from New Zealand right now often reflects the nation’s sense of itself: friendly and co-operative, gently ironic, quiet or reserved. This style has something to do with population size (4.7 million: smaller than Scotland, Ireland or Minnesota), something to do with the vicissitudes of talent and publishing, and something to do with the country’s pre-eminent creative writing programme, founded and run until 2013 at Victoria University in Wellington by the understated, reserved and deftly ironic (and also terrific) Bill Manhire ...

On the Dickman Brothers

Stephanie Burt, 2 February 2017

... My brother opened thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body until it wasn’t his body anymore. That’s how​ Matthew Dickman describes the death, in 2007, of his older half-brother, Darin Hull. His loss isn’t the only topic in Matthew’s poems, or in the poems of his twin brother, Michael, but it is one for which both poets are known – widely known, in the US, as poets go ...

Where Things Get Fuzzy

Stephanie Burt: Rae Armantrout, 29 March 2017

Partly: New and Selected Poems 2001-15 
by Rae Armantrout.
Wesleyan, 234 pp., £27, September 2016, 978 0 8195 7655 2
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... By​ 1979, when Rae Armantrout published her second book, The Invention of Hunger, with Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba Press, she was already what much of the literary world would soon learn to call a ‘language poet’. Like Hejinian, like their Bay Area friend and ally Ron Silliman, and like the writers from the East Coast who ran the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Armantrout sought a recalcitrant, even opaque, way of writing that could get out from under the assumptions, conventions and restrictions of (among other things) capitalism, patriarchy, Romantic lyric, transparent exposition and prose sense ...

On Laura Kasischke

Stephanie Burt: Laura Kasischke, 2 August 2018

... Where Now​ is Laura Kasischke’s tenth book of verse (Copper Canyon, £23). She has also written young adult novels, science fiction, historical fiction, books you might label as mysteries or thrillers, and realist novels about present-day adults – 22 books in all over 25 years. Usually, when I read a big Selected, I find myself thinking about how the poet has changed, how far she has come, or else about her limits and when she began to spin her wheels ...

No scene could be worse

Stephanie Burt: Adrienne Rich, 9 February 2012

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-10 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 89 pp., £19.99, February 2011, 978 0 393 07967 8
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A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society 1997-2008 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 180 pp., £11.99, July 2010, 978 0 393 33830 0
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... Adrienne Rich’s new poems show qualities that almost require the label ‘late style’. They are made up of fragments, careless of finish and of audience. In technique, as well as in explicit subjects, they account for debilities and advancing years, which they also fiercely defy, and they look back so insistently to her earlier work that they may not seem designed to stand up on their own ...

Olallieberries

Stephanie Burt: D.A. Powell’s poems, 24 September 2009

Chronic: Poems 
by D.A. Powell.
Graywolf, 79 pp., $20, February 2009, 978 1 55597 516 6
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... The first collection published by D.A. Powell, Tea (1998), looked oddly like a smart restaurant menu: Wesleyan University Press manufactured a shiny, green and gilt hardback, six inches tall and nine inches wide, to accommodate Powell’s very short poems and very long lines. The promise the cover gave was borne out inside, where those long lines flaunted multiple midline stops, unruly punctuation (stopping where the grammar said go), terse yet explicit depictions of gay sex and profuse quotation from disco hits: now the mirrored rooms seem comic ...

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