Stephanie Burt

After Callimachus
September 25, 2019 Burt Stephanie


(Epigrams, 54)
Καὶ πάλιν, Εἰλήθυια, Λυκαινίδος ἐλθὲ καλεύσης

Goddess of parturition, listen when Cleo
calls. Accept her offerings and her fears,
and make it as easy as it can ever
be for her to give birth.
“Do you know whether
you’re having a girl or boy?” Sweet clue-
less grownup, the only way is to ask
the child. We’re not going to know for years.



(Aetia 3/ 96)
Θεοὶ πάντες κομποῖς νεμεσήμονες, ἐκ δέ τε πάντων

The gods (to put it calmly) aren’t big fans
of people who boast about their education,
who swing one branch or medal around
and treat it as their matchless qualification
for every future throne and crown.

None of the gods are fans. But for Artemis—
whose mother was a refugee,
who grew up alone in the woods—it’s personal.
Tell her your school’s pedigree
means you go first in the hunt,
or (worse) that you must go in front
of her and her maidens, and she’ll place a call
to Nemesis,
and they will find a way to bring you down.

(Epigrams, 9)
Ἦλθε Θεαίτητος καθαρὴν ὁδόν. εἰ δ᾿ ἐπὶ κισσὸν

The singer who wrote the songs for the band Game Theory
belongs in the heavens along
with their greatest songs.
He wasn’t a party guy. He never got famous
enough to win a major prize.
During his life, he heard DJs name
so many other artists, over and over.
But when your kids are trying to find their course
amid false friends, or trying to recover
from the worst breakup ever in their short lives—
it’s his songs that are going to leave them teary,
his songs that will ring in their ears, and open their eyes.

Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor. In 2012, the New York Times called Burt “one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation.” Burt grew up around Washington, DC and earned a BA from Harvard and PhD from Yale. She has published four collections of poems: Advice from the Lights (2017), Belmont (2013), Parallel Play (2006), and Popular Music (1999). Burt’s works of criticism include The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (2016); Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (2009), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Art of the Sonnet, written with David Mikics (2010); The Forms of Youth: 20th-Century Poetry and Adolescence (2007); Randall Jarrell on W.H. Auden (2005), with Hannah Brooks-Motl; and Randall Jarrell and His Age (2002).