Belmont: Poems

Belmont: Poems

by Stephen Burt
     
 

The new poetry collection by Stephen Burt, "one of the most gifted poets of his generation" (Frank Bidart)
*An NPR Best Book of 2013
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Poetry Book of Spring 2013 *

Our skills are finally in demand.
If you mock us, Pan,
In whom we also believe, do it
As gently as you can.
—from

Overview

The new poetry collection by Stephen Burt, "one of the most gifted poets of his generation" (Frank Bidart)
*An NPR Best Book of 2013
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Poetry Book of Spring 2013 *

Our skills are finally in demand.
If you mock us, Pan,
In whom we also believe, do it
As gently as you can.
—from "The People on the Bus"

In Belmont, Stephen Burt maps out the joys and the limits of the life he has chosen, the life that chose him, examining and reimagining parenthood, marriage, adulthood, and suburbia alongside a brace of wild or pretty alternatives: the impossible life of a girl raised by cats, the disappointed lives of would-be rock stars, and the real life to which he returns, with his family, in the town that gives the book its name, driving home in an ode-worthy silver Subaru. Can a life be invented the way a poem can? What does it mean for a precocious child, or a responsible grown-up, to depict the world we want? With wit, beauty, tenderness, and virtuosity, these poems define the precarious end of extended adolescence, and then ask what stands beyond.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Major Jackson
…[Burt] complicates the suburbs we know from John Cheever's stories and movies like American Beauty by suggesting the way out of malaise is to celebrate residents' liberating desires and obsessions, not least his own…the collection is dominated by virtuosic turns and eclectic imaginings made all the more charming by Burt's constant self-reflexive address to the reader as co-conspirator and part of his larger "we."
Publishers Weekly
Renowned critic Burt’s third poetry collection Belmont (named for Burt’s Boston suburb and the fictional suburb in The Merchant of Venice) explores themes of adulthood, parenthood, and personhood with tenderness, intelligence, and wonder. These are welcoming, entertaining poems full of rhetorical questions that are never bullying or glib: “Dear shepherd: do you have a staff?/ Dear effortful ones: how far are you wandering home?” The juxtaposition of subjects proves every bit as enjoyable as the poems themselves: ”Self-Portrait as Muppet” appears beside “The Soul,” their content skillfully blending lyricism and plainspokenness. The poems that directly address the responsibilities of parenthood are some of the most successful, striking a rare chord of sensitivity and accuracy. In one, the speaker lists precautionary items all parents are wont to carry—“sunscreen,/ and insect repellent, and pretzel stick, and Aquafor,” closing the poem with the following insight: “We mean/ it when we say like it; we feel sure/ it’s safe around here, and once we feel safe, it’s our nature/ to say we’re unsatisfied, and pretend to seek more.” Elsewhere, the speaker evokes the paradox of certainty through syntactically slippery, indented lines: “How yellow the sky how little the understanding/ Intangible the things we know for sure.” This collection, full of heart and humor, demonstrates Burt’s impressive range and formal deftness. (June)
From the Publisher

“The collection is dominated by virtuosic turns and eclectic imaginings made all the more charming by Burt's constant self-reflexive address to the reader as co-conspirator and part of his larger we.” —New York Times Book Review

“In this, his third and best book, [Burt] is moved to song by the challenges, whimsies and ecstasies of fatherhood and suburban life. These poems are all kinds of tender; they're funny, too. Most of all, they're made wise by a father's careful attention to all his children know.” —NPR, "Best Books of 2013"

“Joy is new each time it happens--and it happens a lot in these poems of Stephen Burt's Belmont. . . . This is a world in which authority figures pull strings but are mostly irrelevant: Burt dismantles all cultural, psychological and literary idee recue pertaining to childhood, identity, gender.” —Los Angeles Times

“These poems, which are often wryly humorous, express great tenderness for American domestic life. . . . They also capture the limitations and disappointments that accompany the arrival of adulthood.” —Page-Turner, the blog of the New Yorker, "Books to Watch Out for"

“Stephen Burt has long been regarded among the most important critics now writing, but this year marks his emergence as one of his generation's most interesting poets.” —NPR, "A 2013 Poetry Preview"

“Stephen Burt's Belmont is a celebration of the ordinary: walks in the park, breakfast cereal, the Subaru, the Swingline stapler. It's a book about being a father in the suburbs, and thus a book about growing up, written from the perspective of someone who has and who has discovered that there is life, and happiness to be had on the other side. . . . [A] sobering and mature collection.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“I expected Belmont's craft and wit and intellect. What I did not expect was Burt's occasionally lovely and deeply considered strangenesses: shadowy places I needed to dig at, moments in his poems when the gates surrounding more manicured language are left ajar--unfastened, beckoning. . . . The core of this book is restless; it seeks.” —Open Letters Monthly

Belmont is lyrical yet contemporary, a fascinating exploration of everyday life.” —Largehearted Boy

“[Belmont] explores themes of adulthood, parenthood, and personhood with tenderness, intelligence, and wonder. . . . This collection, full of heart and humor, demonstrates Burt's impressive range and formal deftness.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Burt possesses a keenly empathetic imagination that allows him to inhabit and speak for his subjects. . . . Grounded in the physical world, the poems recognize and enshrine the wonder of consciousness itself and follow wherever it might lead.” —Library Journal

“Breezily contemporary in feel, yet deeply lyrical in quality and effect. . . . Belmont is an outstanding collection at once thoughtful and witty, meditative but rapid-fire, a domestically rooted yet lyrically urbane accounting of modern life as interpreted by one of the gifted critical intellects of our time.” —New York Journal of Books

“To change the ordinary lives we mortals live, Stephen Burt simply dings it with his poetry/philosophy wand. . . . He shows contemporary life glittered with soul searching--the literary will solving its thought problems.” —Washington Independent Review of Books

Library Journal
In his third collection (after Popular Music and Parallel Play), poet and critic Burt again directs his attention to everyday objects (brussels sprouts, tea towels, socks) and suburban life (curbside recycling, Subarus). The poems, however, are anything but mundane. Burt possesses a keenly empathetic imagination that allows him to inhabit and speak for his subjects. Whether channeling a benevolent stapler ("In hope that what I join/ nobody will put asunder,/ I preside eagerly over/ every union I encounter") or a fatalistic Muppet ("somebody bigger/ than we can ever get is pulling the strings"), he infuses his monologs with poignancy and wit. Burt's skill with assonance, rhyme, and other devices of traditional prosody lends an authoritative tone throughout, yet his voice remains earnest enough to imagine in your ear. VERDICT Grounded in the physical world, the poems recognize and enshrine the wonder of consciousness itself and follow wherever it might lead. When Burt, a young father, writes "children are taller than ideas," you know his concern for the former in no way inhibits his pursuit of the latter.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781555976446
Publisher:
Graywolf Press
Publication date:
06/11/2013
Pages:
88
Sales rank:
1,153,407
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

Meet the Author


Stephen Burt is the author of three poetry collections and several critical books, including Close Calls with Nonsense, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at Harvard University and lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

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