Stephen Burt

Biography of Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt is a literary critic, poet and a professor, who teaches at Harvard University. The New York Times has called him "one of the most influential poetry critics of his generation."

Burt received significant attention for coining the term "elliptical poetry" in a 1998 book review of Susan Wheeler's book Smokes in Boston Review magazine.

Burt also adds that Elliptical poets are "good at describing information overload." In addition to calling the subject of Burt's review, Susan Wheeler, an important elliptical poet, Burt also lists Liam Rector's The Sorrow of Architecture (1984), Lucie Brock-Broido's The Master Letters (1995), Mark Ford's Landlocked (1992), and Mark Levine's debut, Debt (1993) as "some groundbreaking and definitively Elliptical books."

In 2009, Burt wrote an essay called "The New Things" in which he invented a new category of American contemporary poets, which he calls "The New Thing." Burt explains that these poets derive their new style from the likes of William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley, Gertrude Stein and George Oppen.

Poets, for whom Burt claims that "The New Thing" label fits, include Rae Armantrout, Devin Johnston, Joseph Massey, Michael O'Brien, Justin Marks, Elizabeth Treadwell, and Graham Foust. Updates


Things you know but can't say,
the sort of things, or propositions
that build up week after week at the end of the day,

& have to be dredged
by the practical operators so that their grosser cargo
& barges & boxy schedules can stay.

The great shovels and beaks and the rolling gantries

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