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National Poetry Series

Monograph: Poems

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Winner of the 2014 National Poetry Series, selected by Denise Duhamel

Monograph is one poet's primary research on all things love--the erotic, the domestic, love's glory, and its accompanying rage. Simeon Berry's voice is irresistibly authentic, even at its most crafty. . . . “There are things I've done to make the story better . . . the girl with the skull and crossbones hearing aid. . . .” This poet writes what everyone else (or, at least, many of us) are thinking regarding the morality of memoir. “Everything you are talking about are open secrets. She wants you to feel like you're handing over the nuclear launch codes or something.” Smart and also wise, Berry's poems are stripped bare of ornamentation and read like columns of pure light.

—Denise Duhamel

If you enjoyed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Eula Biss’s The Balloonists, you will love Berry’s Monograph—obsessive, prismed, wise, shameless—a whole treatise of desire formatted into tiny succulent prose poems or lyrical fictions or bites or bits or installments or glances or confessions: a collage of lovely and disturbing threads. I simply could not put it down.

—Maureen Seaton

With Monograph, Simeon Berry has found a new and compelling way of doing what presents, rather slyly, as autobiography. By turns acerbic, self-mocking, and gently witty, this book is made of lucid, startling sequences of squibs, or tabs, of narrative fragments about sex, love, family, books, and writing. Mostly what I wanted to do in this blurb was quote my favorite bits—look at this, look at this—but there are too many of them. Smart detail, sudden skids, Big Questions, casual idiomatic precision: Monograph has all of these, but I think it’s the quality of Berry’s attention that is most arresting of all. A book of wit and heart.

—Daisy Fried

By turns hardcore and hilarious, reading Monograph is like experiencing the minutiae and mythology of a long-term relationship through the slits of a zoetrope: the inside jokes, the ghosts, the tics and tantrums that make us fall in and out of love. A sly treatise on gender relationships and literary disclosure, this book will slap you, pet you, tell you it’s sorry, it will never do it again, but it will. I never wanted it to stop.

—Karyna McGlynn

Do you enjoy the idea of New England fishermen who cannot swim? I do very much. “These are the people I come from,” Simeon Berry writes early on, and proceeds to show us a man whose intelligence is the raft he clings to as his relationship falls apart. I like this too – “my brain is my business” – because it’s so simply and oddly true: whatever a poet writes about, the real subject is the poet’s mind. And I'm surprised and entertained by the mind that shows up on these pages. There’s a quality of invention here I love, the feeling of wonderful traffic between what’s real and what’s made up, from a poet who understands that the self is, in large part, a mythology we create. This is a fun, weird, and quietly harrowing book. I hope one of many to come.

—Bob Hicok

120 pages, Paperback

First published September 15, 2015

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About the author

Simeon Berry

4 books161 followers
Simeon Berry won the 2013 National Poetry Series for his first collection of poetry, Ampersand Revisited (Fence Books), and the 2014 National Poetry Series for his second book of poetry, Monograph (University of Georgia Press). He has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant.

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5 stars
23 (56%)
4 stars
10 (24%)
3 stars
5 (12%)
2 stars
1 (2%)
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2 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books134 followers
October 9, 2021
I’d never heard of Simeon Berry before coming across this book, but I must say he is very good. This is a poetry book that borders on prose, autobiographical I guess. Often quite funny. I’m going to have to read it again someday.
Profile Image for Lynn.
Author 1 book51 followers
October 8, 2016
This book is compulsively readable. By that I mean I read it in one sitting, only one of a handful of poetry books of which that is true.
As the back cover says, it does blur the line between poetry and flash fiction/nonfiction. The pieces have characters, so the book really read like one text rather than a series of unrelated poems.
I really enjoyed the wit and intelligence in this book. I love the form, of course.
It's rare for me to read a book of poetry that I feel like I really connect with emotionally and formally, but I did with this one.
I'd recommend this book to everyone, even those who don't traditionally read or like poetry. While the language and sensibility is poetic, the book contains stories as well.
Loved it!
Profile Image for hh.
1,105 reviews58 followers
May 6, 2015
early review. the first time i read monograph, i had to close my office door and cry. initially, i gave this 4.5 stars.

but i'm rereading, and i've reconsidered. because i am crying in my office again. emotional gutpunch across multiple readings is starworthy.

books don't make me cry. i mean, i cried at the end of where the red fern grows, but that's about it.
Profile Image for Timothy Deer.
63 reviews3 followers
August 27, 2015
The National Poetry Series is committed to ensuring that great works of poetry continue to be published each year. Simeon Berry truly shares that mission; for the second year in a row, he has been selected as a winner of the NPS (one of only two people to achieve repeat glory) and published a beautiful collection. "Monograph" is notably different from last year's "Ampersand Revisited", though the author's voice maintains its authenticity. Reading Berry's writing is like sitting in a boat in a calm sea: you safely ride the emotional waves up and down, all the while hoping you remembered to pack a life jacket. The writing oscillates between dark, cutting truths to explosive one-liners. How can one writer say so much in so few words? Perhaps he'll win again and we can know the answer.
Profile Image for 17CECO.
85 reviews9 followers
November 24, 2017
autobiography like a bowl of truffles
brief, erotic and decisive
in observation.
ok, the simile isn't perfect.

like one blurb tells me to think, Berry has a wonderful quality of attention--which is even more rare in poems that center people.

its best in how it savors the world, where it finds desire and pleasure. and also hurt unfolding from the pursuit of comfort.

though the jabs at avant-garde poetry seem lazy and made me suspicious of my own comfort in listening to someone disclose and disclose.

still, I read it in two intense sittings. would have been one if I had time.
Profile Image for Joseph Spuckler.
1,510 reviews22 followers
October 8, 2020
Monograph by Simeon Berry was chosen as a winner The National Poetry Series 2014 Open Competition. Berry has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant. His first book, Ampersand Revisited, won the 2013 National Poetry Series.

The first question one would ask when starting this collection is "Is this really poetry?" Berry makes it clear in his work he prefers poetry over prose. He notes that it took Raymond Chandler years before he could write a character gracefully leaving a room. In verse Berry says:

This is why I don't write Prose.
I hate Choreography. Just fill up the
bong with Delphic smoke, please, and
I'll find a way to get out of the stanza.
See? Like that.

Berry does not title his work, but rather puts them in labeled sections that have something to do with at least one of the poems. Some of the work is informative, like the meaning of human from ancient Hebrew. Sometimes the topic is the writer almost dying as an infant, but mostly the poems center on "N" Berry's girlfriend, and former lesbian. He describes their friends and family too. Some of this may seem a bit mundane, but there are brilliant bits interlaced through the collection:

Fog ate the tops of the buildings and made the
park smell like an iron works.

The writing has a particular quality that draws the reader into Berry's life. I am sure many readers think they have led fairly exciting lives. I think we all do to some extent. Try this experiment. Sit down and write a short story length work on one of you most exciting life events. No matter how fond we are of memories, they never seem to work their way into exciting written stories. Berry takes a rather routine life and interjects bits and pieces of uncommon information turning his writing into something that is difficult to put down and occupies your complete attention.

Opening Monograph is like cracking open a common grey stone and finding that it is marbled with brilliant crystals, not a solid core of crystals, but patterns interlaced throughout the rock's structure like stars in the sky. Berry takes life and unstructured poetry and creates a radiance that shines through the cracks of ordinary.
Profile Image for Jason.
Author 11 books39 followers
September 17, 2022
I need to read it two or three more times before I can come to grips, but goddamn this dude can write a book.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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