Then think of what sleeping rocks dream of.
The life of Mark Perlberg
Theater of Memory
Poetry Center



About the life of Mark Perlberg

For some twenty years, Perlberg taught a poetry workshop at the Newberry Library. He brought in samples from contemporary writing for discussion and helped students to analyze these and their colleagues’ poems as well as their own, helping them to read and write with insight and precision. When the courses were finished, he invited some students to join a leaderless group he had established. The group consisted of some twelve or so members, including Mark himself, who met regularly to read and discuss each others’ current work as colleagues. Mark valued the group very highly, not only for the mutual support it generated among its members, but also for the help it gave to the production of new work, including his own. “Nothing helps a writer so much as having a deadline,” he would say.

One of his students, later a member of the group, wrote about the experience as follows:

When I walked into Mark’s poetry class at the Newberry in September 2005, I remember being torn. One part of me said, “What is this old white man going to teach me about poetry? He probably won’t ‘get’ anything I write…I’ll stick it out tonight, since I’m here, but I’m not wasting any more of my time after this." Another part of me said, "Shit, he looks like a serious poet. He probably reads everything and has an eye for talent. He’ll hate everything I’ll write. He’ll be nice about it, I can tell, but he’ll hate it...I don’t need his rejection. I’ll stick it out tonight, but that’s it."

Needless to say, I kept going back. Mark treated us all with such warmth and honesty. It mattered so much to him that we read good poetry as a way of learning how to write it; he valued the poetry, but he also valued us. His critiques were honest and enlightening, but never harsh.

Many of Mark’s students became close and valued friends.

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