Where Poems Come From

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Once, driving to New Hampshire for a winter weekend getaway, we’d made it halfway up the mountains when snow started to fall.


My then almost-three-year-old must have noticed how tightly I was gripping the wheel and clenching my jaw and started asking over and over: Are we here yet? Are we here yet? Are we here yet?


Poems, for me, often begin with such tiny slips of language, and her substitution of here for there felt riddled with existential angst, as though she were posing some sort of Buddhist koan.

September 9, 2015 | Ben Berman

Duck, Goose

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I have spent much of the summer playing Duck, Duck, Goose.


Unlike the local kiddie pool, which is all chaos and concrete, Duck, Duck Goose offers us a balance of mayhem and order, conflict and resolution. And in doing so, the game provides us with a glimpse into the foundations of narrative.


Everyone sits calmly in a circle, as one child walks around tapping the others on their head, chanting, duck, duck, duck, until a well-timed goose leads to a great chase

August 13, 2015 | Ben Berman

Craft Advice


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It takes the Oxford English Dictionary 26 pages to define the word set, and I’ve found that exploring the various meanings of a word allows us to contemplate our own multitudes and contradictions in interesting ways.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much my relationship to writing is contained within the many definitions of the word practice.

July 9, 2015 | Ben Berman

Parenthood and Modern Lit

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Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days, wrote Flannery O’Connor. But while surviving childhood might very well qualify us to become writers, it is surviving parenthood that truly prepares us to become great readers.


For the first half of the twentieth century, the modernists offered us visions of a world filled with chaos and futility, something I don’t think I really understood until I became a father and experienced months of sleepless nights, endless domestic chores and piles of soiled onesies.


But even more important than …

June 11, 2015 | Ben Berman

Teach What You Don't Know

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As a writer and teacher, I’m interested in both the gaps and overlaps between the two fields.


Not surprisingly, I feel most at home in front of my creative writing classes – I’ve studied craft formally, have read hundreds of books about the creative process, and have been practicing writing steadily for the past twenty years.


But this year, I have found myself in the strange position of teaching a film class – strange because I don’t own a television, haven’t watched a movie all the way through in years and know next to nothing about the art …

May 14, 2015 | Ben Berman