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Fellowship Recipient Daneen Bergland

This is the first in a series of postings about the 2008 Oregon Literary Fellowships recipients.

Daneen Bergland earned her Masters in Writing from Portland State University. She teaches writing at PSU and Clackamas Community College. Her work has appeared in Born Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Willow Springs and elsewhere. She says, “currently, finding tensions – pressing against places in poems, whether it be images, syntax, or the line, where I might find a nerve ending – is my greatest concern as I revise.”

Larissa Spzorluk, the poetry judge for this year’s fellowships, had this to say about Daneen’s work:

“The poet’s kinship with the natural world is what impresses me most—rather than deliberate, it is almost a burden: people and rocks and insects belong to the same category of importance, whether she likes it or not. In other words, all living things are fused in her imagination, giving her work a heft that feels effortless. Formally the poems retain a raw feeling that I find praiseworthy: too much technical consciousness would offset the wonderful “inevitable” textures, drawing attention to artificial structures and usurping the organic forthcoming quality of the perspective.”

Here’s Daneen’s response to some questions, followed by one of her poems:

Do you have a writing schedule?
No. Writing happens between the cracks in my other schedules: teaching, tutoring, mothering. Luckily, I have writer friends and a writing group. They add incentive to look for the cracks, because I know they are writing and that they expect to see mine.

Can you describe any rituals you have that help you settle into writing?
Though I don’t have any particular rituals, I have my props. First drafts and ideas happen in my collection of notebooks. (They have to be pretty). My current favorite is a gorgeous book my friend Janine made. It is so special I write really small in it. Because of that, I sometimes switch to a different one when I feel like I need more space to make a mess. Last summer I was using this really little notebook with a peacock on the front. I realized I was able to write longer poems than usual in this one for some reason. And I like a nice pencil. Actual composing and revising happens on my computer, but I think it is important to start on paper where I’m less likely to lose possible good material to the convenience of the delete button. Most important of all is quiet and a sense of solitude.

What are you working on currently?
I’m trying to finish a book of poems I’ve been writing for the last six years. I think I’m at the end of the process: arranging the poems, making minor revisions, and preparing to let it go.

What inspires you?
In terms of writing, the work of other writers inspires me. Not just what they produce, but their actual work. I admire the writers I know who have carved out a ritual, who have figured out how to say no. Also, I try to read as much as I can — fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. To me, writing is part of a conversation I’m having with other writers as well as with myself.

Accidents of Trees

In columns and rows
they grew sideways for spite
or confusion, elbowed
for light.

In these tidy rows the whippoorwills
disorient and cannot rest.

The dust boiled as they fell
into square bright pools of field.

The wild trees, not far away,
stood on tiptoe. The new ones
in delicate tangles of root
where the nurses once fed them,
and old survivors licked black
where they’d opened their skirts.

Towards the straight forest
long throats leaned forward
shushing the birds.

—Daneen Bergland
(this poem first appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review)