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David Berman

David Berman (1934-2017) was an American poet. He was born on September 11, 1934, in New York City and raised in Hollywood, Florida. After attending public schools and having poetic "aspirations" in high school, he enrolled at the University of Florida where he edited the literary magazine and received a B.A. with honors in 1955. He then undertook graduate studies in English at Johns Hopkins and worked in the Boston area as a technical writer and editor. In 1960 he entered Harvard Law School, where he received his J.D. degree in 1963. Berman was licensed as an attorney the same year and clerked at the Supreme Judicial Court for Justice Spiegel. From 1964 to 1967 he was an assistant attorney general under Edward Brooke. From 1967 until his death he had a private practice in the Boston area with an emphasis on business litigation. He loved the law and was a zealous and learned advocate for his clients.

Berman also had a parallel career as a poet. While working in Boston in the late 1950s, he took Robert Lowell's poetry seminar at Boston University. As a law student at Harvard he was permitted to take Archibald MacLeish's poetry course, which he called the "high point" of his week, and where he met and befriended the poet Bruce Bennett. While at Harvard, Berman was published in the Harvard Advocate and became "almost a fixture of its pages." But then he hit a lengthy dry spell, with his first recognition outside "cloistered Harvard" coming in the early 1970s when X. J. Kennedy and his wife Dorothy published two of Berman's poems in the first issue of Counter/Measures, then six more in the second. In 1982 his first poetry chapbook, Future Imperfect, was published by State Street Press. But according to Berman he didn't really hit his stride as a poet until age sixty, when his poems became less "reticent" and began to "blossom." Around this time his second chapbook, Slippage, was published by Robert L. Barth, in 1996. Over the years, Berman published a number of poems in literary journals such as The Formalist, Piedmont Literary Review, Sparrow, Orbis, Iambs and Trochees, and Pivot. His favorite poems were eventually collected into a third chapbook, David Berman's Greatest Hits 1965-2002, published by Pudding House Publications.

Berman was a member of the Harvard Club and the Pow Wow River Poets, a trustee of the Cantata Singers, and Vice Echanson and Vice Concelier Gastronomique Honoraire of the Boston chapter of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. He passed away on June 22, 2017, after battling cancer for several months.

Future Imperfect

It will be autumn, autumn in New England;
It will be morning, morning almost noon;
The road will curve from green to gold-vermillion;
The road will curve but one curve come too soon

And out of nowhere as if you had taken
The curve too fast and overshot the rim,
You will remember someone who loved autumn,
Remember that you shared it once with him.

These are poems Berman mentioned in the introduction to his collected poems:

"Future Imperfect" (conceived in 1965 during a drive through New Hampshire around the time of a relationship breaking up)
"After a Family Reunion" (also conceived during a drive―this one through a thunderstorm after a family get-together)
"Calvin" (a poem about slurry, bugs and predestination)
"The World Goes On" (a poem about his mother's death in 1991)
"Slippage" (a poem about the loss of memory inspired by a dropped book)
"Quiet Love Affair (a "composite" of different relationships)
"Settled" (a poem about his Aunt Mary's ashes being inurned)
"The Broken Lamp" (a poem written about a real-life event)
"Disjunctions" (a poem inspired by a conversation with a client about a wife he couldn't live with, or without)
"To a Friend Who Has Been Told That He Has Been Given No More Than Six Months to Live" (winner of the 1996 Orbis Shakespearean Sonnet Contest)

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