I step from my house in the deep city surprised by the odor of lilac--sudden as a slap, as an unexpected caress.

The life of Mark Perlberg
Theater of Memory
Poetry Center



About the life of Mark Perlberg

Perlberg writing Mark Perlberg wrote his poems in the spaces between reporting assignments, on weekends, during long nights; working with pencil on yellow pad, revising and revising yet again, making the page so thick with writing that it was hard for anyone but him to read. Eventually he moved his poem-in-progress to his computer; and then new revisions began.

Through the years he published his poems in many literary journals before they appeared in his books. Among the journals were Poetry, The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, Hudson Review, and The Atlantic. Garrison Keillor read several of them on The Writer’s Almanac. And Perlberg gave many readings. Perhaps the most notable occurred in Washington’s Library of Congress, at the invitation of Gwendolyn Brooks.

He complained about writer’s block, but didn’t stop writing. In 2002, he spent time in the Lannan Foundation writers’ colony in Marfa, Texas, and produced several of his last poems there. And he was writing during his final bout with leukemia, prior to his death in 2008. Visitors to his hospital room would see him working on his long poem, “Song of the Platelets,” in which he re-enacts conversations with the technician who draws his blood, both of them hoping his platelet count will be high enough to send him home once more, and also discussions with a visiting rabbi about the “sublime 23rd Psalm” (“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…”) which he may want to have read at his funeral—but maybe not, because “it’s a cop-out.”

Mark Perlberg’s papers will be stored with the Special Collections Section of the University of Chicago Library.

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