Secret Wounds, was selected by USA Book News 2011 Awards as the best poetry book of the year. Additional awards include the 2010 John Ciardi Poetry Prize from BkMk Press and Finalist Awards from the ForeWord Book Review Prize and the Eric Hoffer Award (the winner has not yet been announced). The poem, “Einstein’s Happiest Moment” has been reprinted by Ted Kooser on americanlifeinpoetry.org and on the Every Day Poems series. And “Playing in the Band” (YouTube video) won the award for best poem in the Cancer Poetry Project2.
Using the shorthand lingo of a busy physician, Richard Berlin presents both the intense beauty of “After she pages me to pronounce him” and the lyrical “he is dying on dialysis.” Berlin reveals the loneliness and limitations of his medical art as he breaks bad news in one poem and in another, listens to a dying patient tell a joke. Here, Auden, Blake and Celan consult with Einstein, Freud and Jung. While the prognosis is not good—we are all terminal—these smart and surprising poems aspire to nothing less than “the chance to change the world.”
—Peter E. Murphy
Berlin has a gift for clarity—and for similes so brilliant they work almost invisibly. No jargon here, no ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake, no scandals or hyperbole, but, yes, secrets we all know yet find impossible to articulate for ourselves. The mysteries here, neither swayed by sentiment nor obfuscated by ego, have a human beauty that’s well-grounded and true. I entered the world of Berlin’s Secret Wounds fully. It was laid stunningly open for me and was as real as my own beating heart.
Richard Berlin’s poems are revelatory. They reveal the healing power of attention, empathy, witness, and love. He transforms the wounds of a life in medicine, a life on the line, so to speak, into affirmation, not with fancy language or heroic gestures, but with the eloquence of directness and honesty. He writes, “Each wound contains / its own beauty—“ True, but the beauty and power of Richard Berlin’s Secret Wounds as a whole lies in his healing presence throughout these poems. “I place a stethoscope in my ears and listen / to the heart,” he writes, “when I’ve run out of things to say.”
—Jack Coulehan, M.D.