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Poetry Review: David Berman

I know from being on the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest Committee that there are many local teen poets and so, presumably, poetry readers out there. But sometimes trying to find new poets to read is overwhelming. So I’ve decided to do some poetry reviewing to introduce some of my favorites to you.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to add some books of poetry to the mix of what you’re reading.

Incidentally, I find that poetry is a great thing to read during the summer because you can bring a book of poetry to a park, sit down, read one and let your mind drift away for however long you want, and then go on to the next one without worrying about following a plot arc.

Today I’ll be talking about David Berman!

I picked up this book because I’m a big fan of David Berman’s music (under the name of Silver Jews).  I find his lyrics to be funnily mundane and still sort of yearning, and his poetry did not disappoint.  It mixes the daily and the absurd with a sense of the bigness of things.  For example, he was quoted in a Poetry Society interview as saying that his first real lines of poetry were “A cartoon lake. Wolf on skates.”  Weird and a little silly.  But he can also go into something that doesn’t, on the surface, look like it means much, but feels like it’s somehow a conclusive statement about how things are, like in this poem:

SNOW

Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.

For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels

had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.

Then we were on the roof of the lake.

The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn’t know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

When it’s snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.

Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.

A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

But why were they on his property, he asked.

Check out Actual Air today!

If you want to hear Mr. Berman read some of his poems, watch this video:

– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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