I am proud to announce poet Bert Stern will be publishing his poetry collection "Steerage" with the Ibbetson Street Press. Bert is a Somerville poet, a Bagel Bard, among other things. A poem from this collection was published in a recent issue of the American Poetry Review. Bert has been published widely over the years and is a Wallace Stevens scholar. See below for more information about Stern and his upcoming book.
Born in Buffalo, New York in 1930. Bert Stern was was educated at the University of Buffalo, Columbia, and at Indiana University, where he earned his Ph.D. in English.
Stern taught for forty years at Wabash College, where he is now Milligan Professor of English, Emeritus. He also taught from 1965-67 at the University of Thessalonica and from 1984-85 at Peking University. He presently teaches in the Changing Lives Through Literature program.
His poems have been published in New Letters, The American Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Poetry, Spoon River Poetry Review, among others, and in a number of anthologies. His chapbook, Silk/The Ragpicker's Grandson, was published by Red Dust in 1998. His essays and reviews have appeared in Sewanee Review, Southern Review, Modern Language Review, The New Republic, Southern Review, Columbia Teachers’ College Record, Adirondack Life, and in a number of anthologies. His critical study, Wallace Stevens: Art of Uncertainty, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1965.
Advance Blurbs for Steerage:
This is the voice of a wondrously common man. By common, I mean generous, inclusive, and able to dance, at times alone if necessary, with God and with life. Heart, and the words thereof, require expansive courage that can regard both death and immeasurable sorrow without dread. The poems in Steerage, whether they are sensuously peasantlike and ethnic, or contemplative and spare, are crafted like indestructible carpentry.
I am somebody's dream," writes Bert Stern, thinking of his immigrant ancestors and of his debts to them "for what they dared and endured." Steerage settles those debts, but that isn't all it does: Stern's great gift is his ability to lighten family history by knitting it into the larger tissue of the life we all have in common. From the heaviness of history, these poems take flight.
------ Lewis Hyde
Like all true art, this book leaves us better prepared to lay it aside and look for ourselves out that wondrous window it opens for us.
For Bert Stern, the poem is an amazing elixir, its secret ingredient brings back the dead, slows time or steps out of it completely. One drinks it to enter myth, fable, memory, and before that, what makes memory: crossing great waters by boat, sharing supper with the one you love, losing everything, watching fish and geese, remembering the smallest treasure--”the turnip's sweet spheroid, its little tail.” These poems hold forth and hang back. They trouble and soothe, open and grow large, grow odd. “I was spirit, stunned. Nobody said/come into the world,” Stern writes, “I was woven.”
------- Marianne Boruch
from Roger Mitchell’s Preface
Steerage, in which class Stern’s parents came across to the United States, is where this remarkable book of poems starts, with such memory as Stern can piece together, or imagine, of what brought his ancestors, driven out of Russia by pogrom, to a life in Buffalo. All suffered to bring me here to this room where I write, bigger than the house my mother was born in. “I am somebody’s dream. Let them/ tell me if they can . . . if I am recompense for what they endured.”
“Steerage” also plays on the verb, to steer, to guide. This is the deﬁning act of
these poems. In the long absence of those who “suffered to bring me here,” late in
life, with death almost a friendly companion, the poet moves gingerly but expert-
ly between his fears and longings, between then and now.
“Myself,” he says in
“Blackberries,” “I don’t go back much further / than last Tuesday’s two a.m.,
but I smell my elders almost benign
around me, and I eat the berries
they send forth as seed."