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4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk, Standish Room (3rd Floor), Science Library
7:30 p.m. — Conversation / Q&A, Recital Hall,

University at Albany

1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222  See map.


Stephanie Burt

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Stephanie Burt, influential trans poet and critic, was proclaimed “Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker” by the New York Times in 2012. Her newest collection is We Are Mermaids (2022), an exploration in poetry of the non-binary nature and “in-betweenness” of human existence. Asked by blogger “Hey It’s Carly Rae” what she’d like readers to take away from the book, Burt said, “The ways in which queer and trans and weird people need other weird and trans and queer people in our lives. The ways we can make our own fun.”


A professor at Harvard, Burt most recent book is a new guide to enjoying poetry, Don't Read Poetry (paperback, 2023). The New Yorker said the book, “evokes the contagious enthusiasm of a cool teacher.” She is co-host of Team-Up Moves, an AP / discussion podcast about any and all superhero tabletop role-playing games. 

Stephanie Burt
Stephanie Burt, Dont Read Poetry 200.jpg
From the publisher

Stephanie Burt’s poems in We Are Mermaids are never just one thing. Instead, they revel in their multiplicity, their interconnectedness, their secret powers to become much more than they at first seem. In these poems, punctuation marks make arguments for their utility and their rights to exist. Frozen isn’t simply another Disney animated musical but “the Most Trans Movie Ever.” Mermaids, werewolves, and superheroes don’t just fret over divided natures and secret identities, but celebrate their wholeness, their unique abilities, and their erotic potential. Flowers in this collection bloom into exactly what they are meant to be―revealing themselves, like bleeding hearts, beyond their given names.

With humor and insight, Burt’s poems have always cherished and examined the things of this world, both real and imagined objects of fascination and desire. In this resplendent new collection, her observation and care flourish into her most fulfilled book yet. These poems shake off indecisiveness and doubt to reach joys through romance and family, through nature (urban and otherwise), and through imaginative community. We Are Mermaids is a trans book, a fangirl book, a book about coming together. It’s also Burt’s best book.

Stephanie Burt, We Are Mermaids 200.jpg
In the press 

"Stephanie Burt, Harvard English Scholar, Discusses Her Transition" in a letter posted on 

“Stephanie Burt (also known as Steph and Stephen), a Jewish professor of English at Harvard, is one of the first out transgender people to serve on the faculty of the prestigious university. She discussed her transition on Facebook in June, and we have adapted it here for a wider reading public."

Hi everyone! As many of you know, but some of you don’t, after several years of presenting myself as a lady some of the time, and as a guy at other times, I am now a lady all the time.

I don’t regret waiting, at all! But I would regret it if I didn’t make this change now. I can’t overstate what I owe, nor how grateful I am, for the support, love, advice and listening skills that I’ve had and continue to have from my spouse who has been and is the love of my life, from both our kids, from our family and from all of our friends.


This change seems to me like a set of life tweaks and minor changes, some convenient and some inconvenient, that make it easier for me to do consistently and fluently something I’ve long done, openly, for part of the time, but inconsistently: it’s more another step along a familiar path, or a small leap in the direction I’ve been headed all along, than it is a swerve or a big reveal..." Read more at

In Don't Read Poetry, award-winning poet and literary critic Stephanie Burt offers an accessible introduction to the seemingly daunting task of reading, understanding, and appreciating poetry. Burt dispels preconceptions about poetry and explains how poems speak to one another--and how they can speak to our lives.

She shows readers how to find more poems once they have some poems they like, and how to connect the poetry of the past to the poetry of the present. Burt moves seamlessly from Shakespeare and other classics to the contemporary poetry circulated on Tumblr and Twitter. She challenges the assumptions that many of us make about "poetry," whether we think we like it or think we don't, in order to help us cherish--and distinguish among--individual poems.

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