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This interview is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

In Conversation with Dan Burt Alistair Beddow
ALISTAIR BEDDOW I imagine very few people have had a path through life quite like yours: you grew up in an immigrant family in Philadelphia, read English at Cambridge, have enjoyed a very successful career in law and business, and only latterly published your first full-length poetry collection, We Look Like This. Tell me, first, how and why you decided to read English at St John's, Cambridge, where you are now an Honorary Fellow.

DAN BURT: Accidents both. I was a middling secondary school student, but a first-class tough, and an unlikely candidate for admission to even a third-rate US college. Nevertheless, a high school history teacher took an interest in me and sponsored my application to a small Philadelphia Catholic workingmen's college, LaSalle, in whose night programme he taught. My first week there I fell in love with literature, especially English poetry. My grades improved, and three and a half years later LaSalle's English faculty hoped I'd be their first graduate to study for a PhD in English at an Ivy League university.

Through high school and college I had worked at Pennsauken Meats, a butcher shop: thirty-five hours a week in term during the college years, sometimes more. That was enough of butchering. My father had handed down to me his fear of poverty, and I could not imagine risking livelihood and promotion on an English faculty's opinion of me, rather than on something concrete. Law school was the default, white-collar career alternative, though ...


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