Apr 13, 2020
Stephanie Burt is a literary critic and poet who is Professor of English at Harvard University and a transgender activist. The New York Times has called her "one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation".
Burt grew up near Washington, D.C. She has published four collections of poetry and many works of literary criticism. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Believer, and The Boston Review. Her book Randall Jarrell and His Age reevaluates Jarrell's importance as a poet. The book won the Warren Brooks Award in 2002. In 2017, she transitioned to female. She has since been active in LGBTQA+ rights and awareness campaigns
We met at her offices in Cambridge, MA to talk about this, and about her recent book Don't Read Poetry.
Among other things we discuss how to read poetry, or avoid it; the acceptance of music versus poetry; Seamus Heaney and James Joyce; Rupi Kaur and teenage girls, Lorine Niedecker, Robin Robertson, Terrance Hayes's 'American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin'. Reasons to read poetry: - giving voice to a state of mind, character - living the lives of others - verbal technique, challenge, wisdom - helping you to decide what to do - and underestimating the time it takes to walk places.