Featured Poet: LR Berger, Contoocook
L. R. Berger's collection of poems, "The Unexpected Aviary," received the 2003 Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry.
She has been the grateful recipient of fellowships and support from The National Endowment for the Arts, The PEN New England
Discovery Award, The NH State Council on the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, The Blue Mountain Center and The
American Academy in Rome. Thanks to a grant co-sponsored by The NH Audubon Society and The Blue Mountain Center, and
to the generosity of Rachel Carson's family, Berger was afforded time to work on a tribute to Carson at her home in Southport,
Maine. Berger's chapbook, "Sightings," was included in, "Walking to Windward," a series of NH poets (Oyster River Press.) With
Kamal Boullatta, she assisted in the English translation from the Arabic of "Beginnings," a collection of poems by Adonis
(Pyramid Atlantic Press). She taught poetry and short fiction writing for 15 years in NH and at UMass/Boston, and now offers her
workshop, "Letters to the World," to schools and communities, encouraging children and teenagers to raise their voices through
the medium of poems about their passionate concerns and wishes for the world. She is the NE Associate and nonviolence
education trainer for Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, and a counselor in Concord, NH.
Her featured poem below is an excerpt from Notes From Eagle Island , a series of 26 poems that was written over three years. The poems first emerged, literally, as hundreds of scraps of images and conversations collected in notebooks while visiting Eagle Island in Maine. I had worked for many years studying and writing about Rachel Carson. Carson's early writing life was devoted to introducing readers to the biology of the sea, and in one of her letters she said, "I wanted to take the seashore out of the realm of scenery." These poems chronicle my experience of gradually opening to deeper encounters with the sea and life of the island, and to being opened.
My imagination was engaged over a long period of time with the demands of this series: how would I ever find any cohesion or discover the necessary form for these hundreds of images? It was work that taught me a great deal about faithful persistence and openness in the face of seeming chaos and uncertainty. This is often true with poems, but I had never undertaken something of this magnitude that required sustaining myself in the uncertainty for so long. Slowly, the scraps began to speak to each other, then to me, and through me. My hope. of course, is that the poems now speak to others, offering something approaching
Excerpts of, Notes From Eagle Island
Moon as scimitar.
The hour of last light.
I scavenge for the revelation
lurking in every form.
The darkening woods
calls you to declare
what you believe in—
I took the wrong trail
at the crossroad.
My body is torn
between the fear of being
lost, and the work
of finding my way home—
between the impulse to run
and the impulse to kneel.
We are children of these accidental, but
The loon wakes me. Sound of one voice
and another that answers,
tremolo saturating the August air
I haul myself up, wooden bucket full
from the well.
On neighboring islands, others
are drawing themselves from sleep
to hear the wailing of two birds, a calling
we have no choice but to share in this night
blackened as the glass chimney
on the kerosene lamp, the wick
gone too long untrimmed.
Reprinted with permission of the author from,
“The Unexpected Aviary” published by Deerbrook Editions.