Stephen Burt, “After Callimachus”

Bunting I like, but not Olson, nor Bernstein, nor Pound;
I’m tired of flashy long poems
that mean whatever anyone wants them to mean.
I’m also tired of crowds,
hate the Met as I hate Times Square,
and won’t see movies everyone else has seen.
As for you, Lusianias,
I wanted to get to know you. Then I heard
how many others have known you, and how well.

Tomorrow, in fact, I suspect
you’ll show yet another young man
why he’s just the one for you, and how you can tell.

Parallel Play is the second collection of poems from Stephen Burt, and it’s hard not to like a guy who writes poems with titles such as “Self-Portrait as Kitty Pryde” and “Scenes from Next Week’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Quite a few poems in the collection are called “After Callimachus,” and here’s another. So who was Callimachus? An ancient Greek scholar and poet and key participant in one of the few significant literary feuds (over whether short poems were better than long ones).

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9 April 2006 | poetry |