David Bergman teaches in the English department at Towson University. He is the author and editor of over a dozen books, and his poetry is recognized nationally. Among other journals, he has been published in The Paris Review multiple times, and is the winner of the Lambda Book Award and the George Elliston Prize. His fourth collection of poetry, titled Fortunate Light, was released in March of this year. Bergman graduated from Kenyon College, and received his Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University.
1. Can you talk a little about your writing process?
It has changed, and of course changes with every poem. I keep a notebook, which is just for working on poems, so I’ll get an idea or a couple of lines and work on it. The first draft is always hand written. As it moves closer to being finished, I start putting it on the computer because I can manipulate it easier.
2. You are the poetry editor of The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. Can you tell us more about your experience working with this magazine?
The magazine uses poetry to fill up space. I don't have a very grand notion of my own practice. People keep sending lots of poetry there, so from time to time, I get a big stack of things which I go through and pick out the things I like. I’m glad to say I’ve picked out some people who have gone on to do some really good things.
3. Your chapbook, Fortunate Light was recently published, and contains just sixteen poems. How was the writing process for this collection different than some of your longer works of poetry?
It’s by far the easiest book I’ve done. I’ve known the editor of Midsummer’s Night Press since he graduated college. We were corresponding about something else, and all of a sudden he said, we should publish a book of your poems. I didn't do anything because I didn't believe him. Then he mentioned it again, so I went through and picked out some of my work and put it into this collection.
4. The poems in this collection are highly narrative. What is it about this type of poetry that you like the most?
I love to tell stories. I think we understand the world through stories we tell.
5. Your list of published works is admirable. Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers aspiring to have their work published for the first time?
I remember how difficult a feeling it was - the desire to be verified as a writer and having somebody tell you that you are good enough to be published. In my case, I [wasn’t published] until after I graduated college. The poems I sent to The Hopkins Review were rejected there, but the same poems were accepted by The Paris Review. You need to find editors who will appreciate your work and stay with them. The sense of being a writer has to come from yourself; no one can give that to you.