Poet Burt to read, discuss work

BAR HARBOR — Poet and author Dan Burt will join College of the Atlantic Lisa Stewart Chair in Literature and Women’s Studies Karen Waldron for a free reading and discussion of his work at COA’s weekly Coffee and Conversation in the Thomas S. Gates Community Center on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 9 a.m.

“Dan Burt is an immensely talented writer, an elegist, who dares to confront dark subjects in a poet’s search for truth,” Waldron said. “ ‘You Think It Strange,’ the first part of what will be a two-part memoir, and his first poetry collection, ‘We Look Like This,’ include emotionally gripping, unsentimental stories of a brutal childhood and youth that Burt honors even as he escapes them, and the wandering maturity that followed.”

Burt lives most of the year in London and spends considerable time at his home in Bar Harbor.

Burt’s verses “flex muscle after muscle,” wrote British poet George Szirtes. “Burt is excellent on place and occasion. … The tetrametric lines bulge with energy … . It is masculine writing celebrating a masculine sense of temper and purpose. The writing isn’t always as muscle bound as this: it can hover and dance. It has genuine grace.”

Burt was born in South Philadelphia, read English at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and attended Yale Law School. A lawyer and businessman, his poetry and prose have appeared in “PN Review,” “TLS,” The Financial Times, “The New Statesman,” “The Sunday Times” and “Granta,” among others. Two chapbooks, “Searched for Text” (2008) and “Certain Windows” (2011), were published by Lintott/Carcanet Press. He also collaborated on “Cold Eye” with artist Paul Hodgson (Marlborough Graphics/Lintott Press, 2010). Carcanet published “We Look Like This,” a collected edition of his poetry and prose, in May 2012. Notting Hill Editions published his memoir, “You Think It Strange,” in the U.K. in 2014, and Overlook Press published a U.S. edition in 2015. He lives and writes in London and Schooner Head, and is an honorary fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Visit www.danburtpoetry.com

The Greatest Generation
(for Sam Hynes)
By Dan Burt

He walks like a lamplighter through my mind,
in the brown bomber jacket he wore
over whites and to class in the fall,
Marine Corps issue from late ’44,
when he flew Hellcats at Mindinao.

A line that day, Her beauty, like a bent
loosed him on misremembering,
how it scrapes and daubs at memories
and paints a past we wish had been,
how when he was a teen
he recalled a lament for Carnival,
So we’ll go no more a roving
as rowing, and took it to heart as pastoral:
eight sweatered Ivy League athletes
at dusk, oars upright,
shouldering their shell to its rack for the night.

A shot cut short that reverie.
Two flights down in the parking lot
we gather, hear…Dallas…lie in state…
on his car’s radio, news from the spot,
go back, pack papers, silently separate.

We watched the slow march of caisson, coffin,
captain-less horse, black-veiled woman,
then went on as before,
though he mothballed the jacket won in the war.


By Dan Burt

My heroes have always been cowboys,
and still are, it seems….
-Willie Nelson

I idolized three simple men,
the seaman Holmes, the boxer Joe,
the hit-man Uncle Al, and from
their lives knocked up a creed
I lived by in the streets, a hymn
to seas’ remorseless harmonies,
rage, and cold control.

To finish me took fifteen years,
a Grand Tour through four trades,
in six cities under three flags.
I fell in with thieves: double-
dipping bureaucrats, bent lawyers,
peacock generals in a libel case.
When these acid travels ended
my saints were slag, my brows knit,
and all my hymns re-writ.


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