What People Are Saying
Sit and stay a while in the strangely familiar rooms and landscapes that Monica Berlin's Elsewhere, That Small constructs for us. Let Berlin stop the clock, just for a few seconds, so we can take stock of "the ordinary seen & seen / -through" of our day: a doorframe warped by humidity or an over-pruned tree. Here, we weather cycles of loss and recovery; here, we dwell in the contrary senses of belonging and longing to be elsewhere. Berlin's beautifully structured and incisive poems ask us to face--and to marvel at--the brute force of the world's ongoingness. More so, Elsewhere, That Small offers a lesson on how to region here--that is, how to accept, how to endure--as Berlin writes, "Maybe / the only way to understand emptiness / wholly: to live in it." --Emily Rosko
The contingency in Elsewhere, That Small is embodied by the sonnet form, its propensity to turn from abstract to concrete, map to memory "heavy-shaded by green." It's in the rhythm of Monica Berlin's language, in iambs that sometimes strike in a clear pattern sturdy as a chair back before shifting "like some trick of maybe." And yet: what is contingent in the form is inescapable in the fact of our being human. In these poems, we occupy spaces, patches of ground and perspectives that we may be so bold as to call our own. What a gift to be reminded of the view from where we're standing, and how fleeting it is when the time comes to turn: "So I'll give / it up again, say instead yours." --Beth McDermott
This sequence of poems makes me consider the solitary expanse of the sonnet, how the span of fourteen lines opens up a zone through which a thought can travel nimbly its avenues. Intimate, contemplative, seeking out the smallest folds of language, Berlin's verse leads us through estrangements and dismantlings, whose phrases disclose their "beautiful, hardness, their sharp edges & / sharper heave of near-careless care." This book makes palpable a certain kind of nearness, an almost, an about-to-rise, like orchestral instruments tuning up. Reader, bring your listening. --Carolina Ebeid
MONICA BERLIN is the author of Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live, winner of the 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open; No Shape Bends the River So Long, a collaboration with Beth Marzoni, and winner of the New Measure Poetry Prize; and the chapbooks From Maybe to Region, Your Small Towns of Adult Sorrow and Melancholy, and with Marzoni, Dear So and So. A professor at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, she currently serves as associate director of the Program in Creative Writing.
About the Author
Table of Contents
Pressed against these days, & against | Someone left the lights on, so that nearly | Always, as if on cue, the trains | So maybe to region here means without | Over the fence, & inside this hour’s darkness | When left behind those other rooms | With every apology, however small, comes | Or maybe to region here means | Or maybe to region here explains | In the journal of memory, no corners | Every chair can be alone, sit | If every sorrow located along | Tonight finds the chair again, but this time elsewhere, | Because the journal of memory stays | If beyond the picture plane, just past | Where a slow & gradual greening, well | Sorry should know better, but sorry’s only | Suddenly doors hold up the beige of this | In the only lighted window, an empty chair | Our hands at dusk on the railing between almost & | Say rolling, or where hills crest & give | Before any typo put down, a near-guilty | That sense of scale & some distance makes | Marked by weather pattern & daylight, we can | In the journal of memory, any page | Already a ghost, this town | First worries of the season & all we’re thinking | Held, no stilled, there the hours | Call it deliberate, yours, & then | Nearly finished now, the building becomes | Every built thing learns to lean & buckle, any | This morning a ladder | Today the road on the bridge painted | Rare, of late, a day of river | This year has never started like this, the headline read | Late night & only sometimes, we let | These days want belongs | Here: this corner in any season, each | How that word stretches to mean: little | Or maybe to region here means not diminishing | No one on the curb across the street | Grown accustomed to weather’s rough | How that city became a city we didn’t | Almost-summer a wide porch | When we mark where we were not, | Call whatever between us a near vocation, part | Not only what defines every condition of | If looking a small window | Elsewhere’s never a place | Every doorframe holds tight | Or maybe to region here requires the opposite of | How the journal of memory forgot to note | Because there are rooms empty & rooms | In the journal of memory, another | Once leaning then taken down to expose | Early summer & that building yawns | Because the parking lot was & now isn’t | In the journal of memory, not only | Nothing opens these days or opens | Because the weeks limp by—every limb heavy | In whatever clearing we made, settling in | Where looking out also means what comes | To make of this day | Some days landlocked doesn’t mean water | If any season could, this one | Or maybe to region here could be | Sometimes, lately, not knowing how | Every so often the journal of memory concedes | Every kind of season makes mirage of | Drenched, the journal of memory | To discover a city’s skyscape could be made | No fish swimming in that barely | If the journal of memory leaves behind | Maybe it’s all just waiting, what we call | Barely morning & the men | Notes | Acknowledgments | About the Author | Free Verse Editions