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Professor of English Monica Berlin poses with an ampersand that her son Eli gave her.


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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Collection of Poetry by Professor of English Wins Award

Professor of English Monica Berlin poses with an ampersand that her son Eli gave her.

by Elise Goitia '18

A manuscript by Professor of English Monica Berlin '95, Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live, received the Crab Orchard Review's 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award. Berlin's collection of poems will be published in 2018 by Southern Illinois University Press.

"Mostly, I'm still speechless, startled, and grateful," said Berlin. "2018 feels a bit like outer-space time, and there's much to be done to get the manuscript ready for publication, but I look forward to that work, and to the poems being out in the world."

The earliest poem in the collection, said Berlin, was written in late 2004 or early 2005, with the latest written around late 2012 or early 2013. A variation of the manuscript has been under review for nearly a decade.

"The majority of the poems in this manuscript arose from a very particular period in my life and in the life of this world we share," she commented. "If there's an overarching theme or subject there, I hope that is laid bare in the title, Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live."

"For now, making a poem, one at a time, seems to be exactly what I should be doing, and it always feels like a gift," she added.

Along with the publication contract, Berlin received a $1,000 prize and an additional $1,500 as an honorarium for a reading at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Berlin is the author and awardee of a number of works, including winner of the 2013 New Measure Poetry Prize, by Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, for No Shape Bends the River So Long (2015), with Beth Marzoni '04. She also received a Pushcart nomination for "Still, Rivers" (2014).

Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live had been a finalist in the Crab Orchard Series contest in previous years as well as close to 30 other book contests. Persistence, Berlin says, is key to getting published. 

"I don't make poems with the intent of making a book," Berlin said. "Rather, I just make poems, word by word. After a while, when enough have gathered, I sit with the pages for a long stretch, for months, to consider how they inform each other and themselves."

Currently, she's finishing proofs on a forthcoming chapbook of essays, Your Small Towns of Adult Sorrow & Melancholy. She has two other manuscripts in circulation. She's also in the early stages of a new project with collaborator and co-author Marzoni.

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#"If I keep making new poems, I am generally in a better place to manage most everything else."—Monica Berlin '95, Professor of English

Knox College

Printed on Saturday, August 24, 2019