Burton Hatlen

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Burton Hatlen
Born (1936-04-09) April 9, 1936 (age 79)
Santa Barbara, CA
Died January 21, 2008
Bangor, ME
Nationality American
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Professor, Poet
Notable work I Wanted to Tell You
Spouse(s) Barbara Karlson (1961-1983); Virginia Nees-Hatlen (1983-2008)

Burton Norval Hatlen (April 9, 1936 – January 21, 2008) was an American literary scholar and professor at the University of Maine. Hatlen worked closely with Carroll F. Terrell, an Ezra Pound scholar and co-founder of the National Poetry Foundation, to build the Foundation into an internationally known institution. He published a book of poems, I Wanted to Tell You, and recorded on CD two collections of poetry: Burt Hatlen Reads His Poetry and Burt Hatlen - New Poems. Hatlen was considered a mentor by several of his former students, most notably writers Stephen King and Tabitha King.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Hatlen was born April 9, 1936 in Santa Barbara, CA to Julius and Lily (Torvand) Hatlen.[2] His father was a Norwegian emigrant, farm laborer, and owner of an apricot orchard. Hatlen was the youngest of three boys.[1][2]

Hatlen was married to Barbara Karlson on September 20, 1961 and had two daughters, Julia and Inger. The family moved to Orrington, ME in 1967. The marriage ended in divorce in January, 1983.[2]

He married Virginia Nees-Hatlen in 1983.[1]

Hatlen died of pneumonia on January 21, 2008 in Bangor, ME.[1] A memorial service was held in his honor on April 19, 2008 at the University of Maine's Newman Center, Orono, ME.[3]

"Burt was more than a teacher to me. He was also a mentor and a father figure...He made people - not just me - feel welcome in the company of writers and scholars, and let us know there was a place for us at the table."
— Stephen King [1]


Halten received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1958. From there, he went on to Columbia University where he earned a Masters of Arts degree in 1959.[2] Columbia Master's degree in 1959[2][4] By 1961, Halten had also earned a Master's Degree from Harvard University.[2][4][5]

Hatlen earned a doctorate from University of California, Davis in 1973. He completed a doctoral dissertation on the subject of John Milton, a 17th century English poet.[1]


Hatlen served as the acting assistant professor of English at King College in Bristol, Tennessee from 1961-1962.[2] He left that position to become and an instructor of English at the University of Cincinnati where he stayed until 1965.[2]

Hatlen moved to Maine in 1967 to take as job as assistant professor of English at the University of Maine, Orono, ME. In 1973, Hatlen became an associate professor of English.[2] He was an active member of the department, carrying a full caseload, serving for a year 1996-1997) as Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities,[6][5] chairing the Academic Affairs Committee of the University of Maine Faculty Senate,[7] and serving as chair of the Department of English from 1985-1988.[5] Hatlen organized writing workshops, poetry conferences, and collaborative classes that featured guest speakers like Amiri Baraka and Robert Creeley.[8] In 1981, Hatlen became a Professor of English, a position he held until his death in 2008.[5]

Hatlen was a member of the Modern Language Association, National Council of Teachers of English, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance,[2] and a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Studies and Literature at the University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway from 1988 to 1989.[5]

Hatlen was the founding editor of the journal Sagetrieb, which started in 1982. Sagetrieb's contributors focused on the works of William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen and others who represented objectivist, contemporary poets of the day.[1]

Although Hatlen never published a collection of his own scholarly works, he was a prolific writer. His written works on topics including poetry and poetics, education and politics and were published in journals and newspapers within the United States and internationally.[1] He contributed poetry to Beloit Poetry Journal, Occident, Tar River Poetry, Penumbra, Kennebec, Black Fly Review, and Contraband.[2]

In 1996, Hatlen was given the University of Maine's Presidential Award for Research and Creative Achievement.[1][4]

In 1999, Hatlen announced his partial retirement to allow extra allotment of funds to go towards hiring two new professors for the English Department: Steve Evans and Ben Friedlander.[8][1]

Hatlen was known as a campus activist. He marched against both the Vietnam War in the 1960s, as well as the War in Iraq, as recently as 2007, in Bangor, ME.[1] He was one of the founders and a lifelong member of the campus Marxist-Socialist committee, which oversees a lecture series and an interdisciplinary minor.[citation needed]

"Burton Hatlen was a poet, teacher and mentor to Stephen King and a self-described "public academic" who believed passionately in the power and imagery of language".
—  Ray Routhier [9]

National Poetry Foundation[edit]

The National Poetry Foundation was founded in 1972 by Carroll F. Terrell. Along with Hatlen's assistance, the two professors built the foundation into an "internationally respected literary center", hosting conferences held in the summer each year at the University of Maine that drew an international group of scholars, writers and poets.[10][11] Workshops and discussion topics included the works of Ezra Pound, as well as modern and contemporary forms of poetry.[1]

Hatlen was both editor and contributor to Paideuma, a journal that initially devoted itself to the scholarship of Ezra Pound, but that was later expanded to include British American modernism.[1][12]

Hatlen became the director of the National Poetry Foundation in 1991.[1]

"Poetry is the most intense, self-aware form of language available to us. In the language of poetry, we have a form that carries us outside commercial and manipulative uses of language, and invites us to take pleasure in the sheer richness and joy of language itself, and we enrich our humanity in the process. It puts us in touch with other human beings in a direct and immediate way".
—  Burton Hatlen [8]

Stephen King[edit]

Hatlen described writer Stephen King as "the kind of student we all dream of, the student who summons us to do our best."[13] Hatlen met King, along with Tabitha Spruce (who would later become King's wife), when the two were UMaine students [14] and remained personally and professionally close throughout Hatlen's life.[1] When Hatlen formed a writing workshop in the late 1960s, with UMaine colleague, Jim Bishop, King and Spruce were part of that group, along with Sylvester Pollet, Michael Alpert and others. The writing workshop continued intermittently for the next 15 years.[1]

Hatlen notes that fragments of King's college years appear as details in this novels: the student health center in Pet Sematary and, as Hatlen describes "a pair of cops in Misery, both of whom end up dead, are named for two people who chaired the English department around the time Steve taught here." [15] King also named several characters after his mentor, including the prison librarian, Brooks Hatlen, in Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. [1]

"How many people would write a novel like King does and include all these epigraphs from literature? He's a key mediating figure between mass culture and traditional culture. That split between high and mass culture can be debilitating. We can't just have high culture. But if all we have is media culture, then we're impoverished. He has allowed us another possibility: to get these two perspectives into dialogue".
— Burton Hatlen [13]

When the King's decided to donate $4 million to the University of Maine at Orono, they chose Hatlen to receive the first check of $1 million, at a ceremony at the Maine Center for the Arts (now the Collins Center for the Arts). The funds were earmarked for scholarships to academically and financially qualified students and to hire arts and humanities professors.[1][16][17][18]

King wrote in his 2006 novel Lisey's Story: "Burt was the greatest English teacher I ever had. It was he who first showed me the way to the pool, which he called 'the language-pool, the myth-pool, where we all do down to drink'".[1]

Book and CDs[edit]

I Wanted To Tell You[edit]

I Wanted To Tell You is Hatlen's only published book of poems and is a collection of works originating from a writer's workshop Hatlen organized in the late 1960s. [1]

George Oppen: Man and Poet[edit]

Hatlen edited the book George Oppen: Man and Poet, published by the National Poetry Foundation in 1981.[19][20] The book is a collection of twenty-eight essays devoted to the works of poet George Oppen, with contributions from, among others, Eric Homberger, John Peck, Rachel Du Plessis, and the poet's wife Mary.[2]

Burt Hatlen Reads His Poetry (CD)[edit]

Burt Hatlen Reads His Poetry, a 2005 Vox Audio CD,[21] features Hatlen reading 22 of his poems, most of which are also included in his book, I Wanted to Tell You. Featured on the recording are poems that, reportedly, "have the subdued tone characteristic of much postwar American poetry": "Love Poem", "Intimacies", "Mappings", and "A Letter to Ron Mayo".[22] Reporters Dana Wilde and Dale McGarrigle wrote in their critique of the CD: "A lot of recorded and 'performed' poetry is so boring it can hardly be withstood because of the readers' ignorance of the oral - and inner - origins of verse. But Hatlen knows what poetry sounds like, and this CD transmits it, subtly but forcefully".[22]

Burt Hatlen - New Poems (CD)[edit]

Burt Hatlen - New Poems, a 2006 Vox Audio CD, features 11 poems and is a follow-up to his first CD, Burt Hatlen Read His Poetry. Described as "deeply personal", the poems are a reflection of Burton's views on friends, family, acquaintances and such emotions as love, remorse, friendship and fear of death. Poems include "A Letter to Alan Devinish", and re-readings of "Mappings" and "A Letter to Ron Miao". Reviewer Dana Wilde wrote, "...the poems are given in understated but lucid rhythms, which after three or four selections start to become spellbinding, as all good poetry intends".[23]

Selected Reviews, Essays and Editorials[edit]

  • In November the Mind Can Touch Bottom (November, 2006)[21]
  • Joan Retallack: A Philosopher Among the Poets, a Poet Among the Philosphers (Summer, 2001)[24]
  • Historical atlas project deserves funding (May, 1999)[25]
  • Is UMaine a dying university? (January, 1997)[6]
  • Review: Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance by Scott Hamilton (June, 1995)[26]
  • "Feminine Technologies": George Oppen Talks at Denise Levertov. (May/June 1993)[27]
  • Kinesis and Meaning: Charles Olson's "The Kingfishers" and the Critics, with Charles Olson. (Winter, 1989)[28]
  • Sexual Politics in Kay Boyle's Death of a Man (Autumn, 1988)[29]
  • Art And/As Labor: Some Dialectic Patterns in "A"-1 Through "A"-10. (Summer, 1984)[30]
  • Why is the Education of Henry Adams "Literature," While the Theory of the Leisure Class is Not?" (February, 1979)[31]

Lectures, Poetry Readings and Conferences[edit]

  • "Poets/Speak", with Carl Little, Leon Raikes, Elizabeth Garber, and Troy Casa, Bangor Public Library, Bangor, ME (April, 2007)[32]
  • "Bangor Reads" Discussion of Stephen King's book "On Writing", with Dianna Christakos, Ryan King, Stu Tinker, Jan Lima, Jan Owen, Walter Tisdale, Kathleen Ellis, Nancy Leavitt, Sandy Phippen, Janet Chapman, Margery Irving, Bangor Public Library, Bangor, ME[33]
  • POETS/SPEAK, with David Adams, Robin Brox, Tony Brinkley, Ben Friedlander, Kathleen Ellis, Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei, Leonore Hidlebrandt, Terrell Hunter, Kathleen March, Constance Hunting, Ken Norris and Michael Roberson. Bangor Public Library, Bangor, ME (April, 2004)[35]
  • Peace Gather sponsored by The Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, Bangor, ME (October 2001)[36]
  • Stephen King Day, University of Maine, Orono, ME[14]
  • Louis Zukofsky Conference Panel Discussion, with Joseph Conte and John Taggart, a Wednesdays at 4 Plus Series, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY (April 1997)[37]
  • Social Credit and the Poetics of the Radical Center: Williams in the 1930s, sponsored by the William Carlos Williams Soceity, Washington, D.C. (December 1996)[38]
  • "American Poetry" 10th Annual National Poetry Foundation Conference, University of Maine, Orono, ME (June, 1996)[10]
  • Discussed "Stephen King and the American Dream" at "The Maine Novel in the 20th Century" Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Conference, Bar Harbor, ME (November, 1986)[39]
  • "The Maine Novel in the 20th Century" Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Conference, Portland, ME (September, 1986)[40]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Anstead, Alicia (January 23, 2008). "UM scholar Hatlen, mentor to Stephen King, dies at 71". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. A1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Burton Hatlen". Contemporary Authors Online (Detroit: Gale) (MLA 7th Edition). February 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ Dolloff, Aimee (April 19, 2008). "Memories of professor Burt Hatlen". Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME). p. 1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Young, Susan (May 27, 1997). "University of Maine, Faculty's pluses and minuses: Professors face low pay, opportunity to affect students' lives". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 1. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Faculty - Burton Hatlen". Umaine.edu. Orono, ME: The University of Maine. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Hatlen, Burton (January 30, 1997). "Is UMaine a dying university?". Bangor Daily News (All Editiion) (Bangor, ME). Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Hatlen, Burton (March 29, 1995). "Education Network of Maine is Ineffective". Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME). p. 1. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c Anstead, Alicia (April 24, 2000). "Poetic justice '60s poetry enjoying resurgence in respected University of Maine program". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 1. 
  9. ^ Routhier, Ray (December 8, 2014). "Comprehensive Maine historical atlas published". Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME). 
  10. ^ a b Anstead, Alicia (June 21, 1996). "The Beats go on: Vital poetry of the '50s discussed by poets, scholars and critics at special conference in Orono". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Wilde, Dana (June 23, 2004). "Poetry foundation kicks off five-day event". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 2. 
  12. ^ Spivak, Kathleen (January–February 1979). "Wild Animals in Houses". The American Poetry Review (American Poetry Review) 8 (1): 27. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Anstead, Alicia (October 14, 1996). "UM hails Maine's King of high cult: Conference studies writer's influence, and his influences". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "UMaine to honor horror meister Stephen King Day events set for October 3". Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME). October 2, 2001. p. 1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Carlin, Romano (October 14, 1996). "Academia asks: is Stephen King literature? A conference at the horror master's alma mater pondered the question, and drew a crowd". Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA). p. A.1. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "Kings pledge UM $4 milion. New faculty, scholarships planned". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). February 8, 1997. p. 1. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "The finest example". Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME). February 12, 1997. p. 1. 
  18. ^ King, Stephen (March 16, 1997). "This UMaine grad happy to give something back". Portland Press Herald (City Edition). p. 1.C. 
  19. ^ Nicholls, Peter (Summer 2005). "George Oppen: The New or the Avant-Garde?". Journal of Modern Literature (Poetry, Poetics and Social Discourses) 28 (4): 1–12. 
  20. ^ "Books Received". Poetry (Poetry Foundation) 140 (2): 118–121. May 1982. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Hatlen, Burton (November 13, 2006). "In November the Mind Can Touch Bottom". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 7. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Wilde, Dana; McGarrigle, Dale (October 17, 2005). "CD gives voice to poetry of UM's Hatlen". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 8. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  23. ^ Wilde, Dana (April 2, 2007). "Poet's own voice gives shape to emotion". Bangor Daily News (All Edition). p. 7. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  24. ^ Hatlen, Burton (Summer 2001). "Joan Retallack: A Philospher among the Poets, a Poet among the Philosphers". Contemporary Literature (University of Wisconsin Press) 42 (2 (Special Issue: American Poetry of the 1990s)): 347–375. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  25. ^ Hatlen, Burton (May 3, 1999). "Historical atlas project deserves funding". Bangor Daily News (All Editions). p. 1. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  26. ^ Hatlen, Burton (June 1995). "Review: Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance By Scott Hamilton". American Literature (Duke University Press) 67 (2): 401–402. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  27. ^ Hatlen, Burton (May–June 1993). ""Feminine Technologies": George Oppen Talks at Denise Levertov". The American Poetry Review (American Poetry Review) 22 (3): 9–14. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  28. ^ Hatlen, Burton; Olson, Charles (Winter 1989). "Kinesis and Meaning: Charles Olson's "The Kingfishers" and the Critics". Contemporary Literature (University of Wisconsin Press) 30 (4): 546–572. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  29. ^ Burton, Hatlen (Autumn 1988). "Sexual Politics in Kay Boyle's Death of a Man". Twentieth Century Literature (Hoftsra University) 34 (3): 347–362. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  30. ^ Hatlen, Burton (Summer 1984). "Art And/As Labor: Some Dialectical Patterns in "A"-1 Through "A"-10". Contemporary Literature (University of Wisconsin Press) 25 (2): 205–234. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  31. ^ Hatlen, Burton (February 1979). "Why is the Education of Henry Adams "Literature," While the Theory of the Leisure Class is Not?". College English (National Council of Teachers of English) 40 (6): 665–676. 
  32. ^ "Poets/Speak reading slated in Bangor Recital series scheduled in April to mark National Poetry Month". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor Daily News). April 11, 2007. p. 6. 
  33. ^ Averill, Joni (December 27, 2004). "Pine Tree Camp applications available January 1". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 4. 
  34. ^ Wilde, Dana (June 23, 2004). "Poetry foundation kicks off five-day event". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). p. 2. 
  35. ^ "Poets, musicians to share their work at 'POETS/SPEAK'". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). April 21, 2004. p. 4. 
  36. ^ "Bangor vigil to seek peaceful justice". Bangor Daily News (All Edition) (Bangor, ME). October 4, 2001. p. 4. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  37. ^ "THEW April Calendar". Buffalo News (Final Edition) (Buffalo, NY). April 6, 1997. p. F.8. 
  38. ^ "Program". PMLA 111 (6): 1298–1410. November 1996. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  39. ^ Taylor, Robert (November 2, 1986). "Bookmaking". Boston Globe (Third Edition) (Boston, MA). p. C20. 
  40. ^ Taylor, Robert (September 14, 1986). "Bookmaking". Boston Globe (Third Edition) (Boston, MA). p. B39.