Arts Cafe Mystic begins season with Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt is one of those "nobody should be that smart" dudes - all Harvard and Yale and Oxford; an esteemed, multi-award-winning poet, critic and professor. For all his "academia-ness," though, he's also a stunningly evocative writer of tender appreciation for life's possibilities and paths.

There's an immense reservoir of wit and wonder and longing in Burt's work, and his latest book, "Belmont," fuses all sorts of styles from concrete poetry and actual rhyme schemes to prose-poems - and, sometimes, exotic cocktails of all three. He and his wife and children live in the titular Belmont, Mass., and the town and his family serve as launching pads for his reflections in this amazing collection.

Burt headlines the inaugural gathering of the 20th season of the Arts Cafe Mystic on Friday, as always in the Mystic Arts Center. This is superstar-status booking and, appropriately, Phred Mileski and Her Combo provide the musical portion of the evening's presentation. Opening is the Rhode Island's Claire Clooney, reading from her debut book of poems, "How to Flirt in Faeryland."

- RICK KOSTER

Stephen Burt, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Arts Cafe Mystic, Mystic Art Center, 9 Water St., Mystic; with Phred Mileski and Her Combo and Claire Cooney; $10, students free; (860) 912-2444, info@theartscafemystic.

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