Advice from the Lights: Poems

Stephen is sometimes Stephanie and sometimes wonders how his past and her past are their own collective memory.

Advice from the Lights is a brilliant and candid exploration of gender and identity and a series of looks at a formative past. It’s part nostalgia, part confusion, and part an ongoing wondering: How do any of us achieve adulthood? And why would we want to, if we had the choice? This collection is woven from and interrupted by extraordinary sequences, including Stephanie poems about Stephen’s female self; poems on particular years of the poet’s early life, each with its own memories, desires, insecurities, and pop songs; and versions of poems by the Greek poet Callimachus, whose present-day incarnation worries (who doesn’t?) about mortality, the favor of the gods, and the career of Taylor Swift. The collection also includes poems on politics, location, and parenthood. Taken all together, this is Stephen Burt’s most personal and most accomplished collection, an essential work that asks who we are, how we become ourselves, and why we make art.

“Burt mines a nearly limitless store of empathy, lending voices to living things and inanimate objects alike. . . . Burt’s poems are never less than compassionate.”Library Journal, starred review

“A book of tremendous intricacy and the best kind of recurrent music. Strung throughout are several separate yet converging poetic sequences, exploring what it means to come of age while inhabiting multiple genders and multiple selves.”―Natalie Shapero

Advice from the Lights book cover with butterflies and geometric shapes


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