TED Blog

“I read poetry all the time, I write about poetry frequently, and I take poems apart to see how they work,” says Stephen Burt as he takes the TEDGlobal stage. “I’m a word person. I understand the world best and most fully through words, rather than pictures or numbers. When I have a new experience, I’m frustrated until I can try to put that experience into words.”

Burt is here to explain some of the reasons he became a poetry critic and an English professor. For one thing, he says, it was because poems made him feel more — happier, sadder, more alive. He wanted to figure out why, to pick apart these word concoctions to understand their power. In doing so, he realized that there are some things at which poetry excels. For one thing, helping readers understand and accept that we’re all going to die. The audience laughs, somewhat ruefully.

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