Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry by Stephen Burt, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry

Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry

by Stephen Burt
     
 

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Essays and critical writings on contemporary poetry by Stephen Burt, "the finest critic of his generation" (Lucie Brock-Broido)

Stephen Burt's Close Calls with Nonsense provokes readers into the elliptical worlds of Rae Armantrout, Paul Muldoon, C. D. Wright, and other contemporary poets whose complexities make them challenging, original, and, finally,

Overview

Essays and critical writings on contemporary poetry by Stephen Burt, "the finest critic of his generation" (Lucie Brock-Broido)

Stephen Burt's Close Calls with Nonsense provokes readers into the elliptical worlds of Rae Armantrout, Paul Muldoon, C. D. Wright, and other contemporary poets whose complexities make them challenging, original, and, finally, readable. Burt's intelligence and enthusiasm introduce both tentative and longtime poetry readers to the rewards of reading new poetry. As Burt writes in the title essay: "The poets I know don't want to be famous people half so much as they want their best poems read; I want to help you find and read them. I write here for people who want to read more new poetry but somehow never get around to it; for people who enjoy Seamus Heaney or Elizabeth Bishop and want to know what next; for people who enjoy John Ashbery or Anne Carson but aren't sure why; and, especially, for people who read the half-column poems in glossy magazines and ask, ‘Is that all there is?'"

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Burt is one of the leading poet-critics of his own emerging generation, turning out an astonishing amount of terrific reviewbased criticism in places like the TLS and New York Times.” —Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly

This collection of 30 essays, many of which began as book reviews, confirms Stephen Burt's reputation as the leading poetry critic of his generation. Informative, matter-of-fact and abounding with an excited spirit more common to film and pop music reviews than to literary criticism, these essays will appeal to the unpracticed reader of contemporary poetry as well as the seasoned reader. The author of two full-length critical studies of poetry and two poetry collections, Burt comes to the poets he considers-including Rea Armantrout, Juan Felipe Herrera, Paul Muldoon and James Merrill-as both a scholar and a practitioner of the art, but he eschews the specialist's jargon as well as the indulgent lyricality that makes some poets' criticism more dazzling than illuminating. He prefers a more methodical, practical approach, carefully mapping a poet's characteristic formal habits, thematic concerns and apparent affinities and influences, asking nuts-and-bolts questions like "Who was [Frank] O'Hara, and how did he learn to write like that?"Burt has an encyclopedist's will to explicate and taxonomize-his branding of the "Elliptical" school of poetry in 1998 (including poets like Lucie Brock-Broido and Mark Levine) garnered enormous attention here and abroad. He never quite manages to figure out exactly how O'Hara came to be O'Hara-how could he?-but he always succeeds in providing the reader with a learned, insightful and energizing blueprint for his or her own reading pleasure and surmise. (Apr.)

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Library Journal
Burt (English, Harvard Univ.) has published more than 150 essays and reviews of poetry as well as two books about poetry (e.g., The Forms of Youth) and two books of his own poetry (e.g., Parallel Play). Here, he acknowledges that there are fewer readers of poetry now than in the past and does his best to reverse that trend. With liberal quotations, Burt explains what he likes and why. Whether he is writing about famous poets such as Richard Wilbur and William Carlos Williams or relative unknowns like James K. Baxter and Mary Leader, it is clear that he has a keen sense of each writer in terms of both substance and style. All of the essays guide the reader to a greater appreciation of the poet under consideration. Burt gains credibility by identifying what doesn't work, and he is successful in helping us learn to tell what does. VERDICT In the author's own words, this book is "for people who want to read more new poetry but somehow never get around to it."—Anthony Pucci, Notre Dame H.S., Elmira, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781555975210
Publisher:
Graywolf Press
Publication date:
03/31/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
360
Sales rank:
751,196
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN BURT is the author of two critical books on poetry as well as two poetry collections, including Parallel Play. His essays and reviews have appeared in The Believer, The Nation, and The New York Times Book Review. He teaches at Harvard University.

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