Tag Archives: The Mimic Sea


19 Aug

Following series editor David Dodd Lee’s lead, we asked Erica Bernheim (author of The Mimic Sea) to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. She was gracious enough to participate. You can see DDL’s initial response here.

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1.) What are you working on?

I am currently working on a new manuscript, one which takes up where—I think—The Mimic Sea left off. I want to move forward somehow, both through my own ideas and limitations, but also through what I think is interesting to read about. It’s one thing to mimic, but quite another thing to be an imposter, and I want to locate and call out what that means, both as persona and through the personal, the post-confessional. I was incredibly lucky and grateful to have done a residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois over the summer, and I reordered the manuscript while I was there, added new material, and simply had time to read and to write, which is not often the case during the academic year.

 2.) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

If my poems do differ, it may be partially due to my devotion to the low-brow, along with a hampered sense of rhythm and music. I can hear when something is there, but when it comes to scanning and spondees and dactyls, I have always struggled, especially when it comes to being deliberate about decisions. Reading a lot helps, whether it’s a P.D. James novel or Frank O’Hara, something that gets into my head and sticks there, a rhythm or a way of arranging phrases that, for me, cuts through the ornamentation and functions as a creation device. I can mimic what I hear, which makes even more determined to become the imposter in this next set of poems.

3. ) Why do you write what you do?

I always wanted to write fiction and focused more on that for the first few years of my undergraduate studies, but I am notoriously bad at writing dialogue (unless you enjoy reading the words of robots) and I lose interest in plot very quickly, so that didn’t seem like a good fit. I was greatly encouraged by Keith Tuma to continue writing what I thought were poems. During that time, I also read a great deal of Robert Creeley and William Faulkner, and felt drawn towards what could happen with words, whether used sparingly or to excess, and I felt that poetry would allow me to keep trying to find out.

 4. ) How does your writing process work?

As a compulsive people-watcher, I have never been one to work well in coffeeshops or away from home. When I write, I usually have something on in the background (baseball game commentary is ideal). Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve had a desk by a window and I use a big-screened desktop computer, rather than a laptop or tablet, generally. I write a lot by hand and then type it up, but I do all the revisions onscreen. Reading is most often the catalyst for me when it comes to writing poems of my own, although I am sometimes inspired by music, fragments of conversations, fabulous things my students say, or documentary films.



Stephen Burt on Erica Bernheim

2 May

Excerpt from Stephen Burt’s “Nearly Baroque,” in Boston Review

“We can also find the nearly Baroque in some recent first books. Erica Bernheim, who studied alongside Schiff at Iowa, specializes in the almost-adult, not-quite-committed love poem: “Roll over and tell me you’re a sofa, / backboned by an old quilt, tied to the notion / of design.” Her lovers communicate through their collections; without their nearly Baroque storms of flying objects, they could not escape to where they belong, in ridiculous escapades made possible only by a deliberately unrealistic imagination:

It is so nice to think of you, rappelling with bed sheets,
or without, tied around your middle and tied to one end
of a bed framed with photos of barbells from the days
of great holy mastiffs, along with wallets, soup cans, ribbons

from fashion girls in the eighties, sported, braided three times
around one common frame.

Note the braids.

Even the clearest love poems in the nearly Baroque mode involve some artifice. The lovers in Bernheim’s “Dialogue for Robots” cram the poem with rococo, not to say trompe l’oeil, paraphernalia:

Our hairplates gleam like roaches in this just-born light.
In front of our eyes are too many ways to breathe.

We wish to be admired for our glossolalia and our knowledge of foreign architecture.
We are aware of erotica and its place next to the hearth.

One thing we want still is a dainty pitcher shaped like one of our babies.
The last thing we touched abandoned its shape betwixt our mighty fingers.

These robots aspire to a lighter touch, and poets do not come much lighter than Hailey Leithauser, whose first book is nearly Baroque—and more nearly rococo—in its playfulness, its confections of wordplay.”

A review of The Mimic Sea on THEthe Poetry Blog

4 Dec

Levi Rubeck has posted a review of Erica’s The Mimic Sea over on THEthe Poetry Blog.

Here is an excerpt:

“The Mimic Sea is primarily constructed of things you think you have seen, shades, echoes, etc. You are left at the pit of the world, a gaping expanse at one side and the whole of the earth on the other. Insight follows befuddlement, learning one skill surpasses the other, picking up shades of life outside the aquarium but at the loss of everything within. It’s a book that itself comes loose, unravelled, but not through the poems. Rather the scope, at once myopic and focused on infinity, confronts the void with the earth. Bernheim strikes up the band between stations, and the melodies may be buried, but the poems are about the search and the discovery, and you’ll be rewarded through both.”

Poems of the Week – Erica Bernheim

21 Nov



Chicago Day Lily

Left alone and watered less, it flowers
into the nightmare tarnished dreams I
predicted would come for me next. Tender
me your loose change. Afford me purchase
of your maps. To grasp the centermost
spectacular of the lily is to think of the possible,

that this city misses you already, the expressway
of alleged serpentine delight awaits your tendered return.
This season allows itself the luxuries of clothing
askewed, seeing through these dirty tricks
we will do again and then once more. Prehensile
and filthy, the slickness of the nervous bulb

permits it to dream cyclically of the light above.
This genre of clemency is well-deserved, and
without it, we’d not breathe, humble Kansan
refusers of such a story. The absences are real,
decoys for precious exits through soil that bleeds
hues of toothpaste and swimming pools, real colors

with missing eyes. Sunshine is the new currency,
the reminder we foretold would bring predictable
gestures, the nuance of the sound, the grasping
at whatever’s easiest, in front of you, take it, best
and worst decisions—like sadnesses we let linger—
too long across decay’s hesitant deep plane.


The Halo Effect

The algebra of our bodies is always
here. With us, it is the exhalation
of space, the bites we take from
many things. In this picture, everyone
looking to the right will be saved.

Nothing was important but us,
the concern, the languages,
all percentages of the loss. I have
been studying your silent organisms,
these islands filled with relative families.

If you can imagine so many people
saying the same things in different
languages, you can understand the
economy of an airport and how
the people in it will be arranged.

Impatient people have no business
planting trees. Next: a spider plant’s
roots, evil white glistening and cracking
open their containers. Tell it, say be
good when no one is meant to be watching


[We have to be mean, my uncle]

We have to be mean, my uncle
says to the garbage bag of things

my grandmother kept. We look
through them with the television

on. An outfielder who looks over
his head loses sight of the ball.

The score does not matter. What
the bag held does not matter, but

it was jewelry and it was pictures
and they wanted it thrown away.

It is the responsibility of the utterance
which prevents us from making it.

It is a melting tree that feels no rain.
It is love the true carrier of sound.


* all poems from The Mimic Sea, 42 Miles Press, 2012.

The Mimic Sea mentioned on Brooklyn Poets

11 Sep

Erica Bernheim’s The Mimic Sea gets mentioned by poet Michael Dumanis on Brooklyn Poets.