September 18, 2009

Oh fer...So now he's a poet?

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I relocated to Mexico a little over three years ago. There were many reasons for this, both personal and political, which were often intertwined. In terms of daily life, I found the United States oppressive: the workaholism, the running on a treadmill and never getting anywhere, the feeling that one never has a moment to oneself to think, relax, just be. All of that changed when I crossed the border; the sensation was "libre por fin!" (free at last). And it proved to be true. Mexico is not in a rush; the rhythm of life is much slower down here, and a lot healthier, imo. You can believe what you want about crime and swine flu; the fact is, unlike Americans, these folks have their priorities straight. Slowly, I began to unwind. Slowly, I was much more in touch with my body, and with the sensuality of the environment. Slowly, I began to feel happy (what a thought).

All of this had a very large, and unexpected, impact on my writing. One year after my immigration, I suddenly wrote a novel. The bulk of it just poured out in a few days, and then it took another six months to complete the rest of it and start the editing process. I'm currently looking for a publisher for it (well, an agent to start with), and hope I can get it into print sometime next year. The title is Destiny, and it explores the question of whether we can change our lives as an act of will.

I was also asked to be a regular columnist for two upscale literary journals here in Mexico, and began contributing articles on a variety of topics, some of which have been posted on this blog. My Mexican publisher intends to bring it out in book form (in Spanish) as a collection of essays sometime next year, and I'm hoping I can find a US publisher for the English edition as well. These articles reveal a somewhat different form of nonfiction writing, for me, I think: more direct, more visceral, occasionally lyrical. Title: A Question of Values.

Finally: nearly two years ago I suddenly wrote a volume of poetry. This literally erupted while I was sitting in a small cafe; I had no idea I had all this in me, and it moved through my body like a tidal wave. I wrote the bulk of the collection on napkins over a period of three days, and then spent a few months editing it with the generous help of Paul Christensen, who teaches creative writing at Texas A&M, and who contributed a Foreword to the volume as well. And then a small, fine literary press in the Boston area responded positively to a query letter, and the book is going to be published next year by the Cervena Barva Press. The title: Counting Blessings. You get the idea.

Well, I guess good news travels fast. I was subsequently asked to read from this collection by the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, and will be doing a week of presentations for them this November. The schedule is as follows:

-Nov. 16, 7:30 pm: Poetry Reading at Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
-Nov. 18, 7:30 pm: Lecture at the Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin St, SF (I'll be reading 2 or 3 essays from the collection I referred to above)
-Nov. 19, 3:30 pm: Interview at SF State U, Hum 512 (1600 Holloway Ave)

The theme of the Poetry Center's work this year is "The Poetics of Healing". It fits well with what I've been going through, I think. For those of you living in or near the Bay Area, I'd be delighted if you could join us.

And finally, let me thank all of you who have contributed to this blog over the past few years. In some indefinable but very real way, I think the intelligent back-and-forth that we've engaged in had something to do with my growth as a writer. Gracias and




Anonymous Kevin said...

Well, if its not mystical poetry, then I am not sure I'd be interested.... Just kidding!!

Congratulations and best wishes regarding this volume. You are a fine prose stylist, and so it does not surprise me at all to find that you are writing poetry. I hope that your readings will eventually bring you to New York, as I and no doubt others would be delighted to see and hear you there.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Kevin,

Thank you. Actually, I'm going to be in NY the 1st 2 wks of May, but haven't set anything up yet in terms of public appearances. It's possible that my poetry publisher might arrange something; we'll have to see.


10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratualions are in due Mr. Berman for all of your recent accomplishemtns and also all of the inner grwoth and peace you have gain. I likewise have enjoyed the back and forth on here as well as the private e-mail messages and hope that you have benefitted from our conversation as much as I did. I hope you can schedule somthing for St.Louis. I would love to come out and meet you and get an autograph book. I just hope that once I bail out of this sinking ship that I will find the inner peace and relaxation that you have found. Again congratualations and I know that this is just the beginning.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your creative endeavors. You are so right about the American culture.

I have stopped writing completely. I cannot create anything except corporate profit. I'm a slave to this stinking culture that has rotted my life and millions of others.

I can't wait to read your literature. You are an inspiration to those of us who are trying ti find a way to break away.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, I'm really happy your time has been so productive and creative---and your readers are the beneficiaries of your move to Mexico. I'm not a creative person myself and envy people who are when I see what a joy it is in their lives. But I'm grateful for their contributions and figure authors need readers, too, right? It's a maxim in psych that there's no such thing as a geographical cure but there can be. It sounds like you went to a sane life as well as escaping from the insanity of another. Maybe part of your destiny. I hope you'll let us know when you're going to be in various cities as NY and California are a long way off for me to get a signed copy. The best of luck with getting an agent and publisher.

5:04 PM  

Hola Mauricio (better right?):

A professor once wrote a poem called “New York Report”: “My name is Bob, I am my Job.” A Bob always surviving and living for everyone else’s expectations of he being an image, till death does “him” apart. What a job don’t you think? Bob will never “get it” I guess, unless he was saved by a magical epiphany.

The trick of efficient systems like NY is that speed never let’s you get it, that’s why silence and calm is dangerous for “Conspiracy”, a rumor as silent as it can get, is always a noise.

“Just be” has a difference in Spanish: “Ser” (be in it) or “Estar” (not to be in it). “Not in it” is liberating my friend and I’m happy you got your priorities strait, just like Wittgenstein did. Not bad for a gringo, jajajaja.

Maybe the body in a sensual environment gives us another thought of the meaning reason? A lyrical form that can talk in a way out of its reasons.

I think an “act of will” is the want of a future change, a new destiny most times reasonable with future “scenarios”, but not in the direct notion with life, visceral and in touch with day to day affective values that may reveal the paradox of that same reasonable destiny we look for in life? Affective values (in environment’s that have it) actually save us day to day, but they just pass and we don’t even notice them. Maybe they are the blessings we need to count and even realize we need to count on?

Take care and don’t worry: “an angel-chicano is looking out for you”. Never read your Spanish article you teased to write.jajajaj

5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

¡Ay Andres!

Always good to hear from you. Why don't you come to my poetry reading on Nov. 16? I believe there is a direct flight from Temuco to Berkeley, and they serve avocado sandwiches as well.

So, don't forget, Wittgenstein was a gringo. It can be done. Poor Bob.

As for speed as a way of hiding: this was a major theme of William Appleman Williams, the great American historian. It was partly based on F.J. Turner's frontier thesis. This may also be why Americans love sneakers (tenis)--they are always running. Unfortunately, Chile has gotten so gringified, thanks to Milton Friedman and Pinochet, that they seem to be running and hiding as well. Not you.


5:37 PM  
Blogger Jimi Jones said...

Yes I would also love to see you speak. I'm midway between St Louis and Chicago and would love to make the trip to see you!

4:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

A pity San Fran State is not making scholarships available for this purpose, eh?

6:26 PM  
Blogger jarden69 said...

Wow Morris...that's a lot of creative output...very impressive and inspirational.

Now that I'm 46 and in the throes of a raging mid-life crises, and now realizing that I've created virtually nothing in my life, I too want to start writing non-fiction books and some poetry.

I've come to the conclusion that it's all about creating, and not about shuffling papers, manipulating digital characters on a computer screen, and searching for the next hot stock to speculate in to make a killing.

This new motivation of mine springs from the desire to become the monk Morris talks about, and so far I've assembled a personal library of 1,500 books on all topics.

I've mentally removed myself from this American "Society" as I see more and more vulgarity. Today on Facebook one of my "friends" posted a new Bud Light commercial entitled..."Do you take it in the CAN"?

This is just another example of a society in Decline...a society that becomes more and more anti-intellectual where sexual innuendo and sophomoric advertising, entertainment, and behavior comes to the forefront, and the society becomes more vulgar, crass, and base. The Romans went through the same process we are going through now, which ultimately led to their fall, and will lead to ours at some point...hopefully sooner than later.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear jarden,

U need to be clear abt one thing: we are actually *in* the 'fall'; it's not something that's jut beyond the horizon. What is going on in the US today is what 'falls' look like. There are of course nodes in the process--e.g. sack of Rome in A.D. 410--but the real fall is an ongoing process.

To see this more clearly, check out Wally Shawn's terrifying play, "The Designated Mourner".

Thanx again,

11:47 AM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Dear Prof. Berman,
I will look forward to reading your novel and poetry. I recently read "Twilight of American Culture" and am now half way through "Dark Ages America." As a Canadian living in the US for the past 3 years, your books have helped to explain a lot of what my husband and I have been observing while living here.
My husband is Chilean: he grew up and came of age under the Pinochet dictatorship, and is well aware of the effects of US foreign policy in the world. As a Christian theologian and pastor, he has observed how much of this plays out within the country's borders, espcially with regards to their approach to Hispanic ministry. He is currently writing a book on the effects of American religion on Latin American theology, first in its fundamentalist form, then in its "progressive" form. He does not hope to find a publisher, since he takes a critical stance. This critical stance has also caused him to be shut out of the institutional church here, including lack of access to scholarships for his doctoral studies. As Mannheim indicated, the institution rewards those who are faithful to it. As we have discoverd, if you are critical of it you are ostracized.
Thanks again for your great work. It has been fascinating to read.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Lorraine,

Thanks for writing. Your husband should read the Chile section of Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine," and also Ariel Dorfman's book "The Empire Has No Clothes," or something like that (1983). These things might help, a bit.

With kind regards,

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Lorraine and Dr. Berman,

I recently read The Family by Jeff Sharlett and you might find it interesting. It's about the organization that hosts the Congressional Prayer Breakfast in DC and what a powerful force they really are. They're elite fundamentalists and believe since they're rich and powerful they've been chosen by God to lead. Of special interest to me was chapter 6 and their admiration of the Nazi regime. The more I learn about the actual history of politics in the US the more I realize most text books (like the ones I read years ago) are fiction. The dates are correct but the story has been spun to suit the agenda.

4:17 PM  

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