Associate Professor of English
At Knox Since: 1998
2007 Young Alumni Achievement Award Winner
Monica Berlin has been a member of the Knox English faculty since 1997.
She has published poetry, as well as critical essays about the teaching of
creative writing. Berlin's poetry has won several Pushcart nominations and
she was awarded the 2003 Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching and the 2007 Young Alumni Achievement Award from Knox. Berlin has served as faculty advisor for "Catch," Knox's award-winning student literary journal -- a publication that she helped edit when she was a student at Knox. A 1995 graduate of Knox College, Berlin earned an M.A. degree from Western Illinois University and an M.F.A from Vermont College.
Because there's nowhere else I'd rather be. Because nowhere else does what we do, or has these people and this history. Because nowhere else seems this supportive and encouraging of the individual in a community and the individual as an individual. And because I can't imagine not being here, among these students and with my colleagues.
What is your most memorable moment at Knox?
On any given day, I'd answer this question differently. Today, though, my favorite memory is of standing in the back of the Common Room late this May while a poetry workshop, taught by one of my colleagues, gave their final reading. The visiting professor happened to be a student of mine some years ago. That evening, as I listened to her students present their final work, I was witness to something we don't often get to see: a demonstration of what this place makes possible in the future lives of our students, the foundation we help to build upon which their lives are lived. I hadn't gone expecting any of this. I was just an invited guest at an end of the term reading. But what I found there was an especially beautiful thing, those poems offered -- unbeknownst to the students -- as part of the legacy of this place, that circularity, and how they represented, to me, too, an unintended and welcome gesture toward the friendship my now-colleague and I had developed over the years and through poems.
Describe your current research/creative work. What is most interesting about this work?
Because most of my writing process -- both creative and scholarly -- is, in fact, a process of living with something in hopes of knowing that something by heart, until it becomes a part of me, I tend to try not to discuss my work, to intellectualize it or question it, until I'm at a certain point in revision. If I make the mistake of putting it in abstract or theoretical terms before I've had a chance to figure out how to best render the images that haunt me, I am often unable to complete the work. I want to protect the porousness of my writing. So, I'll say this: I'm making some poems, line by line, mostly sonnets, and I'm writing an essay about beds and another about teaching during the first decade of the 21st century, and I'm playing around with some fiction.
If you weren't a professor, you would be a . . . ?
A speech pathologist, probably, or something involving numbers -- an accountant or a statistician.
What is your favorite thing about Galesburg?
I love almost everything about Galesburg almost all of the time. I love Main Street late at night when I'm coming home from an evening workshop or walking downtown on a Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend when everything is quiet. I love how green everything is come May, how one morning we all wake up and suddenly everything is this vibrant, brilliant green that lasts until the summer heat settles in. I love driving south down Broad Street in the late fall and how, just before North Street, Old Main comes in to view. I love the familiarity of this place, after all these years, and how, in general, the people of this city--are gracious, generous, friendly, and persistent. I love the trains, the sky, these big old houses, the brick that is everywhere.
What were the last three books you read?
I've been reading, slowly, The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, and have just finished re-reading Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude and Eula Biss's Notes from No Man's Land. All beautiful and devastating and important.
What did you do to celebrate receiving tenure?
The day President Taylor told me, I was in conferences, had an honors' defense, was starting to grade final work, and then the rush to graduation and all the joy there. Those days were about our students, not me, about their successes, not mine, so I guess I haven't celebrated yet. Not that there isn't reason to celebrate, of course, just that it seems more appropriate to acknowledge the milestone by looking ahead to what's next, which is a summer of writing, reading, cleaning off my desk, and spending time with my guys.