David Berman


Identity Problem

A lunatic has been let loose
To flummox passersby;
It’s bad enough he is obtuse
And worse that he is I.

On Hearing of a Death

I never liked you, miser, sycophant,
Purveyor of hypocrisy and cant,
And do not owe you any debt for dying.
Why should I, to indifference, add lying?


Imaginary love’s supposed to end
In adolescence,
But I am dying proof it can extend
Into senescence.


Just when the toothpaste tube seems squeezed
So hard the poor thing must have wheezed
He’s able with a final crush
To get enough for one more brush.

Advice to a Poet

If you can’t work some magic, hold your tongue;
Let people think your best songs go unsung.

A student of Robert Lowell and Archibald MacLeish, David Berman was an early and highly valued member of the Powow River Poets. He was born in New York City and raised in Hollywood, Florida. After earning his BA at the University of Florida, he did graduate work at Johns Hopkins and received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. From 1967 until his death in 2017, he practiced law in the Boston area. Berman’s work appeared in The Harvard Advocate, Counter/Measures, The Formalist, Piedmont Literary Review, Sparrow, Orbis, Iambs and Trochees, and Pivot, among other periodicals, and in his three chapbooks, Future Imperfect, Slippage, and David Berman’s Greatest Hits 1965-2002 (Pudding House Publications, 2003).