It is our pleasure to host poet and critic Stephen Burt for a reading from his third collection of poetry, Belmont, published by Graywolf Press. The author of the earlier volumes Parallel Play and Popular Music, he has also published several books of nonfiction, including Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry. His criticism has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, Boston Review, and as part of “Songs from Scratch” at Minnesota Public Radio. He teaches in the English Department at Harvard University and lives in the Boston area.
We’ve selected the following poem from Belmont as a example of his quietly philosophical and often tender lyrical work —
“Butterfly with Parachute”
A real one wouldn’t need one,
but the one Nathan draws surely does:
four oblongs the size and color of popsicles,
green apple, toasted coconut and grape,
flanked, two per side, by billowing valentine hearts,
in a frame of Scotch tape.
Alive, it could stay off the floor
for a few unaerodynamic minutes;
thrown as a paper airplane, for a few more.
Very sensibly, therefore,
our son gave it something, not to keep it apart
from the ground forever, but rather to make safe its descent.
When we ask that imagination discover the limits
of the real
world only slowly,
maybe this is what we meant.