Strange Borderlands - Poems

Able Muse Press
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 Strange Borderlands, Ben Berman’s first full-length collection, counterpoises insights with uncertainties while chronicling the poet's immersion in a new culture. In compelling metrical, free verse and prose poems, Berman provides a vivid narrative of exotic adventures, especially his Peace Corps service in Zimbabwe—the people, the land, and his “struggling with the blurred lines of where things end” on his return home. This distinctive collection can go from humorous to heartbreaking, and is spellbinding from start to finish—a rare achievement.

PRAISE FOR STRANGE BORDERLANDS:

Ben Berman’s wonderful first book, Strange Borderlands, is a masterful study in the power and limits of empathy, of respect for difference in tension with the urgent need for common ground. Beyond his formal and stylistic range, linguistic flexibility, eye for detail, irrepressible wit and powerful feeling, what’s most impressive about this terrific book is Berman’s inclusive generous spirit, the deadly serious imaginative play he exercises in every line of every poem. This is a book to cherish.
                        —Alan Shapiro

These are poems that weigh, consider, and restore some flesh-and-blood meaning to the experience of multiculturalism, a word so overused it is often flattened out to a platitude or piety. But not in this book.
                        —Fred Marchant (from the “Foreword”)

Ben Berman’s lyric poems set in Zimbabwe dig deep into the casual and the casualty of daily life:  the hammer striking the sheep’s head, the sustenance that follows; disciplinary beatings that students, giggly and protesting, could count and count on to fade.  Unassuming but wise, compassionate yet wildly, unpredictably funny at times, Berman delivers to us escalating hardships that somehow elevated us toward the sacred; the pathetic harvest and sweetness that comes from the least likely of places. This least likely of places is where Berman thrives, calling on closely observed facts to chronicle the perimeters of tenderness and cruelty. I believe every word in this collection. This is an unforgettable debut by a powerful and humble voice.
                        —Dzvinia Orlowsky

Ben Berman’s marvelous first book, Strange Borderlands, chronicles in startling and unforgettable poems his sojourn in Zimbabwe and his immersion in a culture that both embraces and exiles him, attracts and reproaches, changing him forever. Using a variety of poetic approaches—rhymed couplets, prose paragraphs, sonnets, free verse—he gives us a multi-tonal description of landscapes that are as elusive as they are inviting, as unfamiliar to most of us as they are intuitively recognizable. This is a compelling poetry of “strange borderlands where distance and intimacy collide.”
                        —Gregory Djanikian

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About the author

 Ben Berman grew up in Maine, served in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe and currently lives in the Boston area with his wife and daughter. He has received the Erika Mumford Prize from the New England Poetry Club and Artist Fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. Strange Borderlands is his first full-length collection.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Able Muse Press
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Published on
Jan 31, 2013
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Pages
104
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ISBN
9781927409060
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / American / General
Poetry / Subjects & Themes / Nature
Travel / Africa / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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 In Ben Berman’s second full-length collection, Figuring in the Figure, poems laden with aphorisms, puns, and witticisms meditate on shapes, angles, thinking about thinking, marriage, and the joys and trials of bringing a daughter into the world, among others. Sometimes with a Frostian spirit, sometimes with a touch of Zen, the known is questioned and wisdom gleaned from daily experience. This is a book that challenges us to reimagine the familiar, both physical and spiritual, while reminding us not to “wander through this world without wonder.”

PRAISE FOR FIGURING IN THE FIGURE:

“Because design, alone, doesn’t hold weight,/” Ben Berman writes in his remarkable second collection of poems, “we need concrete material—the image/ of a bridge over the sound of water.” In Figuring in the Figure, Berman explores the nature of form in its deepest most complex sense. His luminous details evoke a world of mutable forms and shapes that suggest the fragility of our lives. The book culminates with a moving, realistic yet lyrical sequence of poems about the birth of his daughter. This is a quietly beautiful book that deserves attention and recognition.
—Jeff Friedman, author of Pretenders

Figuring in the Figure is a self-portrait of a man becoming a father. Ben Berman writes inside a modified terza rima that makes a virtue out of clarity and discernment. The influence here of Frost returns us to Frost’s virtues: these poems make points and have a point of view. Like Frost, Berman is unsparing in his introspection. He offers us an ongoing philosophy: when faced with the pain and contradiction of everyday life, “to delay judgment and contemplate . . . incompatible thoughts.”
—Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus

Ben Berman’s nimble terza rima is the perfect vehicle for the poems of Figuring in the Figure. Both expansive and structured, the interwoven stanzas allow him to form and reform probing questions of identity without ever forsaking a deep musicality. We watch the speaker ponder mouse droppings, hit the wall in a marathon, describe the great molasses flood of 1919, diaper a doll in a birthing class, then try to manage his “tiny fascist” of a toddler who wouldn’t stop until “every bookshelf toppled/ like a/ failed coup.” His observations are enriched with various kinds of humor—aphorisms, riddles, word plays, and puns. This book is wise and wonderful.
—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, author of Unmentionables

Ben Berman’s fine, clever poems are never merely clever. Their frisky formal play is finally and importantly about the finding of forms that might adequately contain our feelings. As his title, Figuring in the Figure, suggests, Berman is fond of double meanings; indeed, he is in love with all the twists and turns of language, as well as all the structures that display the pleasures of thinking. If invention is his inclination, order is his learned yet sly companion, “a partner,” he writes, “the type/ that coyly invites chaos to dance.”
—Lawrence Raab, author of Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts

 A Vertical Mile from Richard Wakefield is a finalist in the 2011 Able Muse Book Award. Keenly observed themes about people and the land they live in show a profound sense of awe before natural beauty and a love of country life, while recognizing the effect of indifference and inexorable technological advancement. Included are poems about childhood, seasonal changes, mountain climbing, religion and its questions and doubts, life and death, human origins. These poems of stunning artistry show Wakefield in complete command of his craft. This a memorable collection whose insights and pleasures are not to be missed.

PRAISE FOR A VERTICAL MILE:

Deeply rooted in the human history and natural order of his native state, Richard Wakefield’s A Vertical Mile depicts life in rural Washington—people, animals, plants, geological formations, the weather and the seasons. Building on his powerful and impressive first collection East of Early Winters, Wakefield, in A Vertical Mile, has now firmly established himself as one of America’s foremost formal poets. In their memorable presentation by way of deftly employed narrative, meter, rhyme, metaphor, symbol, and diction, the poems in this new collection, once read, cannot be easily dislodged from the mind. That, in itself, is evidence that Wakefield’s best poems are a permanent addition to American letters.
   – David Middleton

Richard Wakefield crafts his verse to exacting standards yet keeps it uncontrived. Throughout A Vertical Mile, Wakefield shows us much about ourselves and the various worlds we inhabit, often of our own making. What he reveals may be sobering or amusing, uplifting or distressing. But, carried by a voice as versatile as the intelligence behind it, it is sure to surprise and delight us as well.
   – David Sanders (from the “Foreword”)

Richard Wakefield writes with a rare metrical skill that calls to mind the poetry of Robert Frost, and like Frost he tells intricate and compelling stories about ordinary people living close to the land. But there’s nothing nostalgic here. There’s compassion, and decency, but never an easy answer. Wakefield’s choice of conventional form is a wry and subtle comment on the contemporary moment, and his mastery of that form raises his work above all the chaos and fads. No, these poems are not nostalgic. They are timeless.
   – Chris Anderson

The arc of discovery is what one traverses in Richard Wakefield’s poetry. It may be a remembered seascape made new by the dust of familial ashes or a lost town, covered by a century of a forest’s reclaiming growth. As a poet of the outdoors—one who sees and, seeing, makes new what he has seen—Wakefield is unsurpassed.
   – R.S. Gwynn

As thrilling as any novel, as taut and exciting as any adventure story, Peter Hathaway Capstick’s Death in the Long Grass takes us deep into the heart of darkness to view Africa through the eyes of one of the most renowned professional hunters.

Few men can say they have known Africa as Capstick has known it—leading safaris through lion country; tracking man-eating leopards along tangled jungle paths; running for cover as fear-maddened elephants stampede in all directions. And of the few who have known this dangerous way of life, fewer still can recount their adventures with the flair of this former professional hunter-turned-writer.

Based on Capstick’s own experiences and the personal accounts of his colleagues, Death in the Long Grassportrays the great killers of the African bush—not only the lion, leopard, and elephant, but the primitive rhino and the crocodile waiting for its unsuspecting prey, the titanic hippo and the Cape buffalo charging like an express train out of control. Capstick was a born raconteur whose colorful descriptions and eye for exciting, authentic detail bring us face to face with some of the most ferocious killers in the world—underrated killers like the surprisingly brave and cunning hyena, silent killers such as the lightning-fast black mamba snake, collective killers like the wild dog.

Readers can lean back in a chair, sip a tall, iced drink, and revel in the kinds of hunting stories Hemingway and Ruark used to hear in hotel bars from Nairobi to Johannesburg, as veteran hunters would tell of what they heard beyond the campfire and saw through the sights of an express rifle.

 In Ben Berman’s second full-length collection, Figuring in the Figure, poems laden with aphorisms, puns, and witticisms meditate on shapes, angles, thinking about thinking, marriage, and the joys and trials of bringing a daughter into the world, among others. Sometimes with a Frostian spirit, sometimes with a touch of Zen, the known is questioned and wisdom gleaned from daily experience. This is a book that challenges us to reimagine the familiar, both physical and spiritual, while reminding us not to “wander through this world without wonder.”

PRAISE FOR FIGURING IN THE FIGURE:

“Because design, alone, doesn’t hold weight,/” Ben Berman writes in his remarkable second collection of poems, “we need concrete material—the image/ of a bridge over the sound of water.” In Figuring in the Figure, Berman explores the nature of form in its deepest most complex sense. His luminous details evoke a world of mutable forms and shapes that suggest the fragility of our lives. The book culminates with a moving, realistic yet lyrical sequence of poems about the birth of his daughter. This is a quietly beautiful book that deserves attention and recognition.
—Jeff Friedman, author of Pretenders

Figuring in the Figure is a self-portrait of a man becoming a father. Ben Berman writes inside a modified terza rima that makes a virtue out of clarity and discernment. The influence here of Frost returns us to Frost’s virtues: these poems make points and have a point of view. Like Frost, Berman is unsparing in his introspection. He offers us an ongoing philosophy: when faced with the pain and contradiction of everyday life, “to delay judgment and contemplate . . . incompatible thoughts.”
—Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus

Ben Berman’s nimble terza rima is the perfect vehicle for the poems of Figuring in the Figure. Both expansive and structured, the interwoven stanzas allow him to form and reform probing questions of identity without ever forsaking a deep musicality. We watch the speaker ponder mouse droppings, hit the wall in a marathon, describe the great molasses flood of 1919, diaper a doll in a birthing class, then try to manage his “tiny fascist” of a toddler who wouldn’t stop until “every bookshelf toppled/ like a/ failed coup.” His observations are enriched with various kinds of humor—aphorisms, riddles, word plays, and puns. This book is wise and wonderful.
—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, author of Unmentionables

Ben Berman’s fine, clever poems are never merely clever. Their frisky formal play is finally and importantly about the finding of forms that might adequately contain our feelings. As his title, Figuring in the Figure, suggests, Berman is fond of double meanings; indeed, he is in love with all the twists and turns of language, as well as all the structures that display the pleasures of thinking. If invention is his inclination, order is his learned yet sly companion, “a partner,” he writes, “the type/ that coyly invites chaos to dance.”
—Lawrence Raab, author of Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts

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