Poet Eric Berlin has been feeling some urgency lately. Early this year, his poem “Night Errand”was awarded First Prize in The Poetry Society’s annual National Poetry Competition in London, England. The prize shone a spotlight on his writing, but having recently become a father, he currently has more plans and drafts than polished pieces to share with newly interested readers. “I’m at a point in my life where I need finished work,” he says.
Eric had exactly 22 weeks between the time he received the call from Saltonstall and the first day of his residency. He started preparing. Each week he devoted to studying the works of one poet and one hip-hop artist. (Twenty-two poetry books sit stacked in his Saltonstall studio.) “I wanted to speed up my development as a writer,” he explains, “And I wanted to come here knowing which of my stories I wanted to tell and how, stylistically, I wanted to tell them.”
As he writes, each new poem is placed on a clipboard which hangs on the bulletin board in his studio (seen above.) A cover sheet has a specific visual reference — a reminder for Eric of the impetus for each poem. “I’ve never been this disciplined,” he says, laughing. “But it’s because I’ve never been so excited by the opportunity! I really want to grow as a writer. And to have the space for all these ideas to tumble out — and to have the time to make the connections — has been really wonderful. I’ve had more clarity here than I’ve ever been able to find.”