By Kaitlyn Allen
Although he was about 10 minutes late, literary critic and poet Stephen Burt more than made up for it. An audience of students and staff gathered to hear him speak as part of the Visiting Writers Series, sponsored by ink and creative writing professor Jess Row’s Writing Communities course, on Thursday, Dec. 2.
Burt was immediately energetic and enthusiastic with the crowd, who nearly filled the Library Auditorium, asking if anyone in the room was an X-Men fan as an introduction to his first poem, “Self-Portrait of Kitty Pryde.”
Burt later revealed to the crowd that he most identifies with Kitty Pryde from the X-Men cast, and that’s why he chose her as that poem’s focus.
Juggling between reading poems from his most recent book “Parallel Play,” his forthcoming, untitled book and Laura Kasischke’s book of poetry, “Dance and Disappear,” Burt made sure to cover numerous topics ranging from the WNBA to cats.
All of his poems were richly descriptive, especially “When the Sweet Wind Did Gently Kiss the Trees,” in which he wrote about his current neighborhood.
“The night is burnt orange / It was never ours,” he said. “You don’t decide to become a different person.”
Burt prefaced reading Kasischke’s “Kitchen Song,” by explaining to the audience that he frequently likes to read the works of his favorite, but lesser known, poets.
Even when Burt was reading Kasischke’s poetry, he read each piece like he read his own — emotionally charged and full of animation and gesticulation.
He then read Kasischke’s “Kiss” while sitting on the floor, creating a more serious, intimate atmosphere which differed from the otherwise funny and light-hearted afternoon.
At the audience’s request, Burt read a poem based on the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” titled “Scenes from Next Week’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“I have to read it from the dark,” he said as he moved to a different part of the stage with less light.
When no one from the audience admitted to being a basketball fan, Burt suggested they skip the section of his poetry that revolves around the WNBA.
However, the audience still encouraged him to read the WNBA poem he had already picked out, which he introduced by talking about one of his favorite players, Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen.
“You find the skills only you could use,” Burt compliments Whalen in the poem aptly titled “For Lindsay Whalen.”
While contemplating reading a few political poems, Burt eliminated those thoughts with a quick “ah, nah!”
Instead, he chose to share his poems about “kinky sex,” which will be featured in his next book, before closing with a question-and-answer session.
“If you have some Q’s, I’ll have some A’s … or I’s,” Burt said.
He fielded questions about how he writes about a variety of topics, including literary criticisms, X-Men and his taste