David Berman

David Berman Poems


Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels

I know it's a bad title
but I'm giving it to myself as a gift
on a day nearly canceled by sunlight
when the entire hill is approaching

It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.

We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,

She woke me up at dawn,
her suitcase like a little brown dog at her heels.

I sat up and looked out the window

Where did you go, my dear, my day;
Where, oh where, did you go?
To market, to maker of market, to say
Too much of the little I know.

It had been four days of no weather
as if nature had conceded its genius to the indoors.

They'd closed down the Bureau of Sad Endings

My life is almost over; that's a fact
Statistically derived but simply true;
I look into the mirror, but it's cracked

Coincidence. Perhaps coincidence
Explains it all. Why look far out, in deep
For mystical solutions to make sense
Of how a dream disturbed more than my sleep—


As one who, reading late into the night,
When overcome by sleep, turns off the light
And yields whatever he can sense by sight

When dreams have turned to dust and dust to slime;
When all you ever were or hoped to be
Appears as no more than a jest of time,
A foolish jest, a tasteless parody

A web of sewer, pipe, and wire connects each house to the others.
In 206 a dog sleeps by the stove where a small gas leak causes him
to have visions; visions that are rooted in nothing but gas.

Some find The Light in literature;
Others in fine art,
And some persist in being sure
The Light shines in the heart.

Ready to disembark,
We're mostly puff and grey.
Who else can sail this ark?
Who else afford such play?

Alfie, honest mistresses are lauded;
The presents they receive they earn, but you,
Who lead me on with lies, leave me defrauded.
My anti-mistress, brazen what you do;

David Berman Biography

David Berman is an American poet, cartoonist, and singer-songwriter best known for his work with indie-rock band the Silver Jews. Biography David Berman was born January 4, 1967 in Williamsburg, Virginia. He attended high school at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, before matriculating at the University of Virginia. While in Charlottesville, Virginia, Berman began writing and performing songs (often left on friends' voice message machines) with his loose band, Ectoslavia, primarily composed of UVA classmates Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Upon graduation from the University of Virginia, the trio moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, where they shared an apartment and adopted the moniker Silver Jews. Before moving to Hoboken, Malkmus had also founded another band, Pavement, with his childhood friend Scott Kannberg. As Pavement's acclaim and visibility grew, the notion arose that the Silver Jews were a "Pavement side-project," despite the fact that Berman's writing, singing, and guitar playing led the band's music, and, of course, the Silver Jews preceded Pavement. On the band's early recordings, Berman even tried to protect the Jews' individuality by listing Malkmus and Nastanovich under aliases, but it backfired when people learned who "Hazel Figurine" and "Bobby N." really were. Not long after the success of Pavement's debut album, Slanted and Enchanted (which was named after a cartoon Berman had created), Dan Koretsky, founder of the Chicago-based indie label Drag City, met Berman at a Pavement show. When he heard of the Jews' tapes, Koretsky offered to release them. On their first single and EP for the label, 1992's "Dime Map of the Reef" and 1993's The Arizona Record, respectively, the band held to their ultra lo-fi aesthetic and recorded the majority of both on a Walkman. After the release of the EPs, Berman entered a graduate-level writing program at the University of Massachusetts and met like-minded members of local bands—the indie-rock/alt-country hybrid Scud Mountain Boys and New Radiant Storm King. Writing at the university left Berman time for songwriting; soon, he had enough material for an album, which became 1994's Starlite Walker. The album reunited Berman with Malkmus and Nastanovich (this time listed by their real names in the credits) in the 24-track Easley Recording studios for a more focused, polished take on the Silver Jews' literate, lyrical, country and noise-inspired rock. 1996-2008 Along with writing and working with other performers like the War Comet, Berman recorded the Jews' second album, The Natural Bridge, in the summer of 1996 with members of New Radiant Storm King and Drag City artist/producer Rian Murphy. Originally, Berman planned to record this album with Malkmus, Nastanovich, and the Scud Mountain Boys, but both sessions were scrapped after a few days. The Natural Bridge continued to streamline the Silver Jews' sound and let Berman's rich, abstract lyrics and reflective vocals take center stage. Malkmus returned for 1998's American Water, and his guitar and vocal interplay with Berman places it among the Silver Jews' strongest efforts. In 1999, Berman's first collection of poetry, Actual Air, was published by Open City Books. The Silver Jews returned in 2001 with Bright Flight and the EP Tennessee, which also features Berman's wife Cassie on a few tracks. In early 2003, The Houston, Tx.-based theater group Infernal Bridegroom Productions staged a theatrical interpretation of Actual Air, which featured selected poems from Berman's book, as well as three live covers of Silver Jews songs, with Berman's blessing. Following the release of Tennessee, Berman struggled through an intense period of depression and substance abuse. In 2003, he attempted suicide by using crack-cocaine, alcohol, and the prescription drug Xanax. Berman would later credit this time as "an incredible blessing", because he became more deeply involved with Judaism. In 2005, Berman reunited the Silver Jews—with a lineup including his wife, Malkmus, Nastanovich, Will Oldham, and Azita Youseffi among many others—for a new album. Recorded in Nashville, Tanglewood Numbers narrowly avoided being destroyed in the electrical fire that engulfed Memphis' historic Easley-McCain studio, where it was supposed to be mastered. Drag City released the album that fall. Berman surprised fans in 2005 by announcing the group's first ever tour. Though he is a reluctant live performer as a musician, Berman occasionally does readings of his short stories and poems in both the US and the UK. His accomplished and trademark sardonic lyrics have been compared by some to Bob Dylan, and his poetry is known to examine overlooked aspects of everyday life as well as chance and often hilarious juxtapositions. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, the Silver Jews sixth studio album, was released 17 June 2008. It was recorded at Marble Valley of Lexington, Virginia and Lake Fever Productions of Nashville, Tennessee. It was followed by an American tour. Berman currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Cassie. Retirement from Music On January 22, 2009, Berman announced via the official Drag City message board that he would be retiring from making music (along with the Silver Jews moniker), and would play a final show at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee on January 31, 2009. The caverns are located 333 feet undeground, and only 300 general admission tickets were made available. The concert aired on Nashville's famed WSM AM radio station, and was also available via a streaming format on their website. Berman stated that he would play his 15 favorite Silver Jews songs. He also wrote that his intentions are to move to "screenwriting or muckraking." He closed the entry by saying, "I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to 'Shiny Happy People'." On the same day, he made another post on the message board revealing that he is the son of lobbyist Richard Berman. The two have been estranged since about 2006, when David demanded that his father halt his work supporting guns, alcohol, union-busting and other industries of the like, or else he would sever their relationship. Richard refused, and the two have not spoken since. In the message board entry, he called his father "evil," a "human molestor," an "exploiter," a "scoundrel," and "a world historical motherfucking son of a bitch." Berman ended his post by saying, "I am the son of a demon come to make good the damage." In January 2011, Berman launched his blog "Menthol Mountains.")

The Best Poem Of David Berman


Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.

Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn't know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

When it's snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

But why were they on his property, he asked.

David Berman Comments

Patrick Murphy 29 March 2014

I'm of the opinion that David Berman should, along with his so called modern poetry be consigned to the garbage can. Complete and utter trash.

10 95 Reply
Andrew Rose 15 December 2021

Well I disagree totally. I love his wry voice and absurd insights.

6 0
John Raubenheimer 28 March 2012

Today one of David Berman's poems was sent me by PoemHunter. I just kept reading and reading, soaking up the discursive swag-bag of ideas... making a story, which intrigued and transfixed me. I wish I had written down the title. I loved the work. Thank you. It is for poems like this that I live and breathe.

20 13 Reply
Danny Cutup 08 December 2004

i saw you read at umass a few years ago, we had a conversation in the bathroom. you're awesome

19 10 Reply
John Richter 01 April 2015

David, just found your poem 'Snow' on Modern Poem of the Day... As a mostly classical writer I've never really warmed up to modern poetry but your 'Snow' is certainly one of those exceptions... Awesome. It might be because my brother and I used to shovel driveways as kids too... Sorry to hear about the fall out with your dad. If you don't mind taking some advice form an admiring stranger then just drop it man, it ain't worth all that.... Guns are not going away, but our dad will be. You don't want to be in that cold place when he's gone.... Just some love for you dude...

14 13 Reply
bitter sweet 09 August 2019

hope you have a great trip. RIP

10 0 Reply
adam gelatt 08 August 2019

goodbye _______________________________

10 0 Reply
fyiinfo 29 May 2019

There are two poets named David Berman. The first nine poems posted here are by by David Berman (1934-2017) and the last five by David Berman (1967-) .

7 0 Reply
Gabby 14 May 2018

I have question is he still alive?

4 7 Reply
Sara Gonsalves 02 May 2018

It sucks that you guys don't even have his best poem on here. Classic Waters, look it up. All time favorite! !

9 3 Reply

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