Love and Poetry

Whenever I’d ask my grandmother how she made one of her famous dishes, she’d look at me and say: the only ingredient you need is love.


This always drove me crazy, partly because I still believed back then that cooking was a matter of mixing the right ingredients together, and partly because I’d watched her spend full mornings mixing and rolling and pinching and folding and knew that her delicately layered strudel required a lot more than a little love.


As a writer, and teacher of writing, I’ve come to understand my grandmother’s response – the kind of meals and desserts that she liked to make demanded enormous patience and attention to details. You can’t really teach someone how to knead dough until it feels perfectly elastic or how to tuck the corners just right so that the filling doesn’t fall out in the oven.  It’s all learned instinct and requires years of practice and a genuine love of the process.


Her response also taught me that love is a complicated and nuanced feeling. My grandmother had a way of pronouncing the word love that made it feel like she was spitting in your eye.


Every year, Mass Poetry puts together something called Common Threads – a selection of poems around a specific theme – and this year Alice Kociemba chose the theme of love.  Sometimes we hear the words “love” and “poetry” together and expect sentimental clichés. But now that February is over, we can ignore the Hallmark chatter and think about love in more varied, complex ways.   


I’m excited to host a free workshop at Grub Street from 6-9 pm on Thursday, April 2nd, where we will discuss the wonderful selections in this year’s Common Threads Poems and use these poems as inspiration to write our own original pieces. There will be an opportunity to write and receive feedback during the workshop and everyone will leave the evening with a new draft of an original poem.


You can learn more and sign up at

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About the Author

Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, was recently selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Center for the Book. And his new book, Then Again, came out last November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters.

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by Ben Berman



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