Margo Berdeshevsky (Fiction, Poetry) | New York, NY / Paris, France
Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York city, often lives and writes now in Paris. Her latest poetry collection, Before The Drought, is from Glass Lyre Press (2017). In an early version, it was finalist for the National Poetry Series. Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness (Sheep Meadow Press). Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press). Other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her works appear in Poetry International, New Letters, Kenyon Review, Plume, The Collagist, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, The American Journal of Poetry, Jacar—One, Mānoa, Pirene’s Fountain, Big Other, among many others. In Europe and the UK her works have been seen in The Poetry Review, PN Review, The Wolf, Europe, Siècle 21, Confluences Poétiques, Recours au Poème, Levure Littéraire. A hybrid book, Square Black Key and a new poetry collection, It Is Still Beautiful To Hear The Heart Beat wait at the gate. She may be found reading from her books in London, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, at literary festivals, and/or somewhere new in the world.
Blurbs, Press, & Reviews
Before the Drought is a lyric meditation on corporeal existence, suffused with atavistic spirit and set in historical as well as cosmic time , a work of radical suffering and human indifference but also sensual transport. The tutelary spirits of these poems are the feminine principle, and a flock of messengers that include blue heron, ibis, phoenix, egret, and blood’s hummingbird. In the surround we find ourselves in the magical world of a floating balcony, and a field of cellos, but it is a world in peril, now and in the time to come, on the night of the Paris massacres and in a poisoned future . In the City of Light, Berdeshevsky writes poems commensurate with her vision, poems that know to ask How close is death, how near is God? Hers is a book to read at the precipice on which we stand.
— Carolyn Forché
Here, Margo Berdeshevsky offers us vast interiorities—sensuous, erotic, complexly feminine. These poems may be distinguished for their musical intricacy and formal variation, but they are also profoundly moving, their speakers subsumed in memory, the constant presence of their bodies, the certainty mortality, and the intrusive violence of the worlds they inhabit. This is a marvelous, deeply humane collection—one I will return to with pleasure.
“Drought” (Middle English, from Old English drūgath, from drūgian) dates back to the twelfth century, and, as with many of our earliest words, articulates a primal human condition—in this case thirst, want, dearth. With the temporal, shape-shifting fluidity of myth, Before the Drought is both lambent with pre-Lapsarian plenitude and vexed by post-Lapsarian lack. The speaker in these poems—part transgressive nun, part revolutionary alchemist—confronts at every turn what it means to live in time, in a body (“how unexpectedly you age / . . . . My strutter, my ogre, my mirror-bitch brayer”), and nonetheless steadfastly to hold an abiding trust in the slaking, annealing replenishment of the broken-open anything—heart, body, sky, heavens.
—Lisa Russ Spaar
Margo Berdeshevsky’s Before the Drought is, alternately, elegy, jeremiad, prophecy, disturbing phantasmagoria, impassioned love letter to Paris, and startling act of witness, these “filthy poems” and “harsh songs of desire” exploring the vectors in and within, the interstices “between words and frames and walls.” Ghosts and other people people these visceral and ethereal poems, Apollinaire, Benjamin, Levi, Verlaine, Kuan Hsiu, Monet, Merwin, Jarrell, Colette, and (Rosmarie) Waldrop among the interlocutors. Soaring things wing through these pages, moths and herons especially, but also rooks, mourning doves, orioles, owls, fruit flies, cardinals, blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons, egrets, and even phoenixes. Like Farrokhzad, who provides an epigraph for one of the poems here, Berdeshevsky is compelled to heed birds’ call to “commit flight to memory,” flight as movement, flight as brilliant, imaginative, free expression. Reading I see red: blood, rubies, lava, flames, and “the bright red hat of virginity.” Inventive hyphenated compounds abound, each one evocatively expressing the difficult or impossible to say: “body-beloved-bully,” “swallow-corpses,” “Body-monster,” “brain-beat,” “kiss-humping,” “sex-legged,” “cut-a-limb,” “swell-bellied-pregnant,” “woman-ing,” “heaven-hung,” “night-net,” “blood-fall,” “blood-moon,” “dove-moan,” “cloud-exploded,” “leaf-fall-fire.” Here you’ll find bone, skin, fire, love, bombs, ghosts, soldiers, and mothers, and so much more, each bravely written poem a vital, pulsating companion during these “frayed days.” It’s an absolutely wonderful and necessary book, in other words”
Margo Berdeshevsky is here to remind us that poetry can both dive and soar. She inhabits a world on the eve of destruction, a self on the ridge of despair, but she doesn’t surrender for a minute. Writing a woman’s body she is fearless, luscious, passionate…”
— Alicia Ostriker
“Each page is immaculate as Margo Berdeshevsky wanders with fire from George Herbert to Cassandra to the silence of the sun before the wounded moon: “The pigeon has found a crippled / moon who will not stand again for days. Has / found water’s silence / and the winter wren trusts me.” Her ways are the fantastic, the pathos of “love’s famine,” and a mastery of emotion…”Between Soul & Stone” is a book of measured splendors.”
“The stories in this prize-winning collection are all about sex. They’re tactile, explosive, hilarious, rueful, and knowing. They’re also about much more than sex. It’s time we got this straight. Women who write about women are no more parochial than men who write about men. Moby-Dick is about all of us; so is powerful work in which the perspective and characters are female. Some important knowledge is – or ought to be – just plain unisex. Berdeshevsky offers such important knowledge to anyone who will take it.”
—Poetry International, Issue 18-19/ 2012
Beautiful Soon Enough: Thrillingly cutting-edge work/an extended erotic dream that limns the inner lives of women deeply yearning for connection & authenticity. Splendid book…
—Robert Olen Butler.
“Margo Berdeshevsky understands the diabolical complexity of the human heart, and how eros is a form of intelligence as well as a drive.”
“Margo Berdeshevsky is a mature poet and world citizen whose ever-lively sense of wonder both at the world and at language is a constant in her work. This is writing with emotional power, great beauty and immediacy, found in the here-and-now, woven with extraordinary awareness of what is precisely not beautiful in human life, which is an intrinsic part of the poems’ texture and reason for being.”
“There is in Margo Berdeshevsky’s work a rare persistence of the lyric voice, used with a sense of ecstasy & grief almost religious in its evocations. Absolutely modern & fearlessly romantic by turns, the poems circle the rich & threatened corners of the living planet & travel further into places marked by mythic & oneiric time…Berdeshevsky emerges, fully empowered, as the maker of a new poetry that pushes voice & image toward creation of a world ‘barbaric, vast and wild’ that Diderot once saw as marker of what all poetry must be.”