Seasoned Poet Guides Others to Success

Herb Berman is an Illinois attorney, a labor arbitrator, who loves to write poetry. An award-winning poet, Herb’s work often appears in poetry journals and other specialized journals. During his demanding career, he’s written legal briefs, technical articles, and arbitration decisions, and now he welcomes the chance to do creative writing. He even shares his love for poetry by leading a workshop of successful poets at his local public library one night a week.

I recently asked Herb to answer a few questions that would inspire others to write. I know you’ll enjoy reading his answers and his thoughtful, beautifully-crafted poems that illustrate his facility with words. Herb’s dedication to poetry will motivate you to start writing or to continue plugging away at it, if you’re experienced.

1) When did you begin writing poetry, and why do you write it?

I began writing poetry in college 55 years ago. I was encouraged by my professors, but I didn’t feel I was any good at it. I majored in English. After I graduated, I wrote a few poems, but I didn’t start writing seriously until about five or six years ago when I cut back on my law practice. I started reading a lot of poetry about seven years ago, though, when I began having more free time. I write poetry mainly for self-expression—for myself. It’s a way of exploring my own needs.

2) What do you find difficult about writing poetry?

The difficult parts are getting started and revising it. I usually don’t like the first draft. Revision can be painful, but paradoxically, also somewhat fun. I have written about 700 to 800 poems. I write two or three a week.

3) What is your advice to someone who has never written a poem but wants to start writing?

Read a lot of poetry. Go to the library and pick up some American poetry, for example, a modern anthology like Norton’s. After reading, sit down and write. I think of what Rachmaninoff, the Russian pianist, said: ‘There’s no such thing as inspiration. You sit down and do the work.’ You’ll never produce anything if you sit down and wait.

My hobbies are reading and writing. I like all kinds of contemporary poetry. I like 19th Century poetry, too, like Whitman, but I’m really enamored of the modern American poets. I’m fickle, as my favorite poets depend on who I’m reading at the moment. But I think Gerald Stern, Franz Wright, W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand, Joseph Stroud (whom I just discovered), and Phillip Levine will always be high on my list.

I’d also recommend that people find a workshop or class that they like.

4) Is there anything that bothers you about some poetry that you read?

I don’t like pretension or vagueness in poetry. Poets should put down (clear) images on paper.

5) What are three of your favorite poems that you’ve published?

In My Old Age

the silence of sundown
blossoms into song
and I can only decline
the other side
the underside
of song

at five my hair was yellow and curly
I was thin as water
and beautiful as
wildness in an unblighted field

today my hair is whiter than
a wildness of snow
and I’m as unbeautiful
as vanished wisdom
seeking tomorrow
in yesterday’s songs

I’ve gone from here to there
in the space of a breath
between song
between measures of song

I almost hear
the rose and blue and yellow songs of yesterday
and the humming of
tomorrow’s songs

but today
today I bless the present
that dies
with each new exultation
of song

HM Berman
Third Wednesday, Fall 2009

Twilight Song

In the soft amber shadow
katydids and crickets sing
farewell to light.

Or maybe they mean to summon
ancient gods to save
them from night.

Or is it insect love—
time to woo the ladies,
a final dance,
a tryst in the grass?

Now the night’s opaque,
and there’s a hum, certain and calm
as the hard silent sleep of granite and iron,
and I think it’s time to honor creatures
kind enough
to sing for me.

I applaud their nameless song,
its veiled composer.
Let their song be forever
the song of wind and grass,
iron and granite and falling light.

HM Berman
Moulin Review
Spring 2010

The Shadow

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

Wearing the cloak of invisibility
defying gravity
unknotting every puzzle
wooing or not wooing Margo Lane
(it was never clear)
playboy Lamont Cranston had the power to cloud men’s minds
bewilder master criminals

Wearing Dad’s ratty old raincoat
I longed to master invisibility
float into Belknap Elementary
pinch Betty Lou
cackle maniacally and sail away

I believed in goodness
honest crime-fighters
showing off to a doting girlfriend
and brilliant playboys with endless funds

I believed in
dodging bullets with a quip and a whirl of my cape
halting crime with magic and logic

I wouldn’t gallop into the sunset with a tongue-tied sidekick
guns blazing bust down doors
slap the villains silly
my shadowy mental powers enough to win the day and the girl

hero for a brainy kid
spooked by horses
and muscle-bound bullies

HM Berman
Highland Park Poetry Challenge Award, 2010

Copyright 2012 by Charlotte Digregorio.

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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1 Response to Seasoned Poet Guides Others to Success

  1. Hi Charlotte, I appreciate Herb Berman’s thoughts about clear images, and I so agree about reading a lot of poetry. “In My Old Age” especially speaks to me. Beautiful poem! Thanks, Ellen

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