What is memory? Praise it. Praise its strings and loops of orchids floating in the night

The life of Mark Perlberg
Theater of Memory
Poetry Center

    Marc Perlberg

About the life of Mark PerlbergA new book of poems by Mark Perlberg
published by the Louisiana State University Press

Poetry as Memoir

During his lifetime, Mark Perlberg published four collections of poems. Toward the end of his life, he focused on a collection that would include both new poems and those earlier ones that he felt were deserving of a second appearance in print. He planned to submit the collection to Louisiana State University Press, for publication as a fifth volume of his work. He discussed the project often, and in detail, with his wife, Anna. She writes, in a Postlude to Theater of Memory:

After Mark’s death, I decided to complete his last project to what I knew were his specifications. When the collection was ready, I submitted it to Louisiana State University Press, who generously agreed to publish it.

The poems in this final collection are recollections and meditations on the whole of Mark’s life experience—family mythology, his father’s early death, the role of art, the nature of childhood, the individual in the moment, confrontation with illness, the subtle nuances of the natural world, and the complexity of love. The subjects are often explored through the eyes of random characters—fellow poets, historical figures, eccentric neighbors, struggling immigrants, his grandparents and grandchildren. The reader is transported to multiple settings, most frequently the rocky, pungent coast of Maine, site of our summer home on the island of Vinalhaven.

Critics have written that Mark brings to his task of storytelling a subtle responsiveness to his natural surroundings, as well as a keen awareness of the pleasures of the senses—that the collection is marked by clarity of vision, purity of language and depth of feeling. 

I believe that the book becomes, in effect, a memoir articulated in the voice of the lyric poet. The voice is unmistakably his own.

Ted Kooser, the 2004-2005 Poet Laureate of the U.S., wrote of Perlberg’s work: “I have been following the poetry of Mark Perlberg with great interest for more than twenty years. I have always been impressed by its authenticity. In his poems, a man speaks as a man, with generosity and humanity, with both hands in plain sight, not as a character artfully assembled for literary purposes.”

Maine's rocky coast

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