Eyewear is thrilled and delighted in equal measure to feature two new poems from the new Stephen Burt book, Belmont - from Graywolf Press.  Burt is quite simply one of the best and most influential poet-critics in America today.

The New Burt Book

His two previous books of poetry are Parallel Play and Popular Music, which won the Colorado Prize. He is also the author of several works of critical nonfiction, including Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Believer, the London Review of Books, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other newspapers and journals. He is Professor of English at Harvard University, and he lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.


You were whiny and socially unacceptable even
to loud young men whose first criterion
for rock and roll was that it strike someone else
as awful and repulsive and you told
grim stories about such obscure affairs
as a man-killing Zamboni and a grudge-
laden marathon runner from Zanzibar

who knifed a man after finishing sixteenth

Each tale sped from you at such anxious rate
sarcastic showtunes abject similes
feel like a piece of burnt black toast
for example threaded on a rusty wire followed
up by spitting too much time to think
by fusillades from rivetguns by cold
and awkward bronze reverberant church bells

percussive monotones 4/4 all for

the five or six consumers who enjoyed
both the impatience of youth
and the pissiness of middle age
as if you knew you had to get across
your warnings against all our lives as fast
as practicable before roommate or friend
could get up from a couch to turn them off

We barely remember you in Minnesota we love

our affable Replacements who modeled a more
acceptable form of rage who thought of girls
and cities boys and beds and homes and cars
as flawed but fixable with the right drink
right mates and right guitar strings whereas you
did not and nothing in your songs resolved
except in a certain technical sense as a drill

resolves contests between drywall and screw

Your second bassist took the stage name Flour
your second drummer copied a machine
Somebody else in your hometown took credit
for every sound you taught them how to use
I write about you now since nobody else
is likely to and since even appalled
too-serious flat compliments like these

are better than nothing and because to annoy

perseverate and get under everyone's skin
beats the hell out of the real worst thing in the world
which is to fade into silence entirely which
will never happen to The Ice Machine
to "Driving the Dynamite Truck" to The Very Long Fuse
to Smoker's Paradise such hard sticks thrown
in the eyes of any audience that is

I should say not until it happens to me



In poems autobiographical information serves the same purpose as references to birch trees or happiness or Subarus.
-David Orr, The New York Times Book Review, July 20, 2008

Whose silver is lead in sunlight, whose maroon
looks like the rust on a storm drain,
whose popular Forrester also comes
in dead pine-needle green,
with rounded roof and trapezoidal frame,
you seem to mean

that I will never surprise anybody again.
So studiously unglamorous, at rest
in our one-car driveway, you seem to claim
that to be adult is simply to care less
about doing your own thing on your own,
and more about what other people require:
to care less for the space cleared by new brooms,

for the fast lane and the fine line
that might, or might not, separate
romance from folly, and more
for Dr. Harvey Karp, who taught new parents how to calm
their infants with attempts to recreate
the volume and vibrations of the womb.

Poems by Stephen Burt, copyright 2013.  From his new collection, Belmont.


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