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)
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 happensand 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 ajarunfastened, 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 searchingthe literary will solving its thought problems.” Washington Independent Review of Books
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