Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Burton Hatlen, Professor of English at the University of Maine, and director of the National Poetry Foundation, died on Monday, January 21st. Serious readers of the Objectivists and of modern American poetry in general are bound to be familiar with Burt's work. His essays on Zukofsky, Oppen, and Reznikoff remain fundamental to the field, and he edited a number of major critical collections. His criticism is remarkably wide-ranging: from Renaissance literature to Bram Stoker to Philip Pullman to his former student, Stephen King. He was a gracious and gentle man, immensely supportive of younger critics. I first got to know Burt when I was a grad student finishing my dissertation at Emory: having learned of my work on Oppen, he asked me to contribute to George Oppen: Man & Poet, which he was editing at the time. I was thrilled that such an accomplished scholar was giving me serious attention. According to his students, he was an extraordinary teacher too. As Robert Creeley would say, Burt was a true member of the company. An account of his life and career can be found here.