Reading, book signing planned at Blue Angel
By Robert Cloud
Two Waupaca High School graduates are returning to the area for a poetry reading.
Mark Berriman, Class of 1987, and Tammy Darrah Wenberg, Class of 1985, will be at the Blue Angel Salon, 122 S. Main St., for a reading and book signing at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28.
Berriman is a published author, a poet and artist, musician and active community leader. His newest book, “That Turned Ugly Fast,” features a foreword by actor and poet Viggo Mortensen.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Berriman majored in communications and pursued a career in journalism.
“I moved to New York City right after graduating from college as a direct result of Mr. Knoepfel,” Berrimen said, recalling the trip he made to Manhattan while a student at Waupaca High School.
In his poem “The Bookworm” Berriman evokes memories of dissecting a worm during a high school biology class: “Scapel / Forceps / Probe & Seeker / The smell of formaldehyde / And Mrs. Knoepfel / barking instructions / on the proper way / to cut the clitellum / without damaging / the dorsal blood vessel / the central / nerve cord.”
Berriman subsequently moved to Milwaukee, then to Mahtomedi, Minnesota, an outer ring suburb of St. Paul. He has been there for nearly 20 years and, until recently, worked as publisher of the Stillwater Gazette. He is now a media consultant for a radio station.
When asked how his 16 years in newspapers affected his poetry, Berriman said, “It gave me a lot of ammunition and made me want to tell stories.”
Berriman also noted that being in journalism made him more politically aware.
“The Gazette offices are directly across from a food shelter,” Berriman said. “The place would be flooded for hours with people coming there for assistance.”
Berriman said his poems have become more political over time.
He has published four books, beginning in 2003 with “Scar Lit” under the pen name of Mark Edward Marston. He then published “Brutally Frank” in 2012, “Kink in the Chain” in 2013 and “That Turned Ugly Fast,” which came out in September of this year.
His latest book includes such poems as “Gimme Gimme Gimme and the Me Toos,” “Robin Hood” and “The Man Who Kissed Hands,” which opens with, “The man / who kissed / hands found / those hands empty.”
Wenberg was born in Bethesda, Maryland and grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Waupaca, where she attended high school.
Wenberg holds a master’s degree in fine arts from Hamline University, where she also pursued post-graduate study in education.
She teaches advanced academic writing for Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. She has served on the editorial board and as the assistant poetry editor for Water~Stone Review. She was a recent finalist for the Loft Mentor Series in Poetry.
Wenberg’s work has appeared in The Birchbark Books Reading Series, Talking Image Connection, 100,000 Poets for Change and Cracked Walnut, among many other venues.
Her poetry was part of “Unforeseen,” a collaborative exhibit that paired the work artists with poets. Wenberg’s poetry was exhibited with a painting by University of Minnesota professor and Holocaust artist, Joyce Lyon.
Although the subject matter is often topical, Wenberg’s poetry is deeply lyrical and evocative.
Her poem, “Ours is the Work of Existence,” is “For the unnamed man killed in a police stand off.” It opens with the paradox of having much to say about death, but finding no words to express “the meaning of life.”
“And there is hardly time to count the facts / among the moments, before we find another / word that is grief. We make an exchange as / if to barter. We set something down.”
In her essay, “Sie Ist Dumbkopf: School-Sponsored Travel Abroad Ill Advised for Freshmen,” Wenberg recalls a summer trip to Germany.
“After all, adolescent cognition mimics a many-tentacled creature of questionable origin, frolicking in its own spittle: outrageous in its deft maneuvering, deadly to prospects for a sound reputation and future employment,” she writes. “It’s a thing of breath and stamina, which succumbs to electrical impulses, zip zip, and gives way to intermittent urchin reactions.”
The essay appears in the I’m With Stupid Stories|You Are Always With You blog series.
Wenberg says “Kissing You Wide,” her current manuscript, “explores the vast terrain and specificity of the ways we love what we love.”