Parallel Play

Overview

The eagerly anticipated second collection by poet and esteemed critic Stephen Burt

Flaunting your useless knowledge has failed you again,

Though it was all they had taught you.

—from “Like a Wreck”

Consult any childhood development guide and you’ll find the term “parallel play”: when children under two are placed together, they’ll play separately but won’t interact. They are ...

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Overview

The eagerly anticipated second collection by poet and esteemed critic Stephen Burt

Flaunting your useless knowledge has failed you again,

Though it was all they had taught you.

—from “Like a Wreck”

Consult any childhood development guide and you’ll find the term “parallel play”: when children under two are placed together, they’ll play separately but won’t interact. They are more fascinated with their immediate surroundings than with each other.

Stephen Burt’s second collection of poems, Parallel Play, describes lovers, friends, travelers, and revelers attempting lives dependent on each other but still pulled inevitably into preoccupations of their own self-awareness. When there are many obstacles—overeducation, narcissism, extended adolescence, nomadic existence—how can Americans crawl out of the nursery and coexist if they increasingly have to learn to do so as adults?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Stephen Burt has found a courage I’d never imagined until I read these poems. It is the courage to expound the consolations of Terror, to declare that we are the Ancients of ourselves, already more accustomed than we know to life in the ruins. With Parallel Play, Burt becomes the Cavafy of these former United States. It will be a privilege to await the barbarians in his good company.” —Donald Revell
Jennifer Grotz
One of the recurring surprises in Parallel Play is the breadth of Burt's fascination with contemporary culture (Kitty Pryde is a heroine from the X-Men comic books). A poem written from the perspective of Pierre Bonnard's "Standing Nude" sits next to a villanelle for WNBA player Lindsay Whalen; another explores "Scenes from Next Week's Buffy the Vampire Slayer ." One gleans an earnest desire to make poems out of the flotsam and jetsam of American life.The intent is to sensitize readers to the overlooked aspects of contemporary life. These intentions are felt as well in the collection's suite of political poems, which includes a moving elegy to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone as well as a sestina that laments: "It's an old problem: how do we go on being/so comfortable, and so troubled? Are we poor/losers? Am I one of the evildoers?"
&151; The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This second collection is harder and terser than Burt's first collection, Popular Music (1999), and its pointed use of traditional forms gives them a spiky significance: that the choices we're given are limited, and crucial: "Win or lose,/ Such small decisions, run together, fuse/ In concentration nothing like the ease/ We seem to see in the skills you use,/ Till someone wins. Then someone else will lose." Again and again in these 50-plus lyrics, in everything from "Pierre Bonnard: Standing Nude" to "Scenes from Next Week's Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Burt finds beauty hemmed in on every side, with a fate that is never completely self-determined, and that poses "questions that arrange us for our roles/ In plots on TV shows, on the narrow channels/ Nobody would choose." Burt is the author of the critical study Randall Jarrell and His Age and has written for the New York Times, TLS and PW, and other journals. Operating on a more macro level, his sestina "Our History" repeats the words "evildoers," "country," "history," "poor," "being" and "government"; its juxtaposition of banal discourse with real problems feels liberating, even as it ends "I too would like to be rid of the evildoers,/ but for now this country likes its government./ What will the poor nations say, when they write our history?" The poem requires its repetitions to sound out full force, but it is what liberal democracy sounds like. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974374
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 1/24/2006
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,424,209
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Burt is the author of a previous poetry collection, Popular Music, and a work of literary criticism, Randall Jarrell and His Age. He currently teaches at Macalester College and lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

I
Bluebells 3
Like a Wreck 4
Rachel Newcastle: Diptych: Girl and Diary 5
Our Summer Jobs 7
Self-Portrait As Kitty Pryde 8
Moscow for Teens 9
Canal Park Drive 10
Paysage Moralise 11
Pierre Bonnard: Standing Nude 12
For Lindsay Whalen 13
Help with Your Plant Questions 14
Scenes from Next Week's Buffy the Vampire Slayer 16
Brief History of North American Youth 17
After Callimachus 20
II
Cathedral Parkway Subway Grate 23
Postcard Sent on New Year's Day 24
A Long Walk on a Weekday Afternoon 25
Tenth Avenue 27
Steam 28
Morningside Park 30
Berenice Abbott's New York 31
The New Rock Jen 33
At the Bowery Ballroom 34
Amaretto Sour (Drag Night at the Nines) 35
Moving Day 36
On the 'A' 37
After Callimachus 39
III
Sixes and Sevens 43
Thanksgiving 2002 44
The Road Builders 48
Our History 49
Over Long Island 51
The Whiskery Towns 52
Miami Beach 53
Old Women at the Beach 54
Christine Willcox: Frog Babies 55
Near North 56
At the Providence Zoo 57
"What Else Should We See in San Francisco?" 59
After Callimachus 60
IV
Abstraktes Bild 63
Six Kinds of Noodles 64
Rosanjin 66
After Monica's Party 69
Franz Kline: Wanamaker Block 70
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park, 24 71
Cleo 72
At Cape May 73
Paper Anniversary 75
Frightening Garden Tools (Invade Your Dream) 76
July Night 77
Fireworks 79
Against Fertility 80
Philadelphia 82
After Callimachus 84
Notes 87
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