Ben Berman

~ poet / teacher ~

Strange Borderlands

Strange Borderlands

— Poems by Ben Berman

Now available from Able Muse Press

Full-length collection of original poetry from Ben Berman, now available for order from Able Muse Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Foyles, and other online and offline bookstores worldwide.



Strange Borderlands
Poems by Ben Berman

Paperback ~ $18.95

104 pages
ISBN 978-1-927409-05-3

Strange Borderlands, Ben Berman’s first full-length collection, counterpoises insights with uncertainties while chronicling the poet's immersion in a new culture. In compelling metrical, free verse and prose poems, Berman provides a vivid narrative of exotic adventures, especially his Peace Corps service in Zimbabwe—the people, the land, and his “struggling with the blurred lines of where things end” on his return home. This distinctive collection can go from humorous to heartbreaking, and is spellbinding from start to finish—a rare achievement.



In Strange Borderlands, Ben Berman translates his Zimbabwe Peace Corps service into a sampler of poetic forms and a gift for empathy and metaphor.  Moving from beautiful to nightmarish and back again, Berman's poetry escorts the reader to a native place, into "borderlands where distance and intimacy collide." – Mass Book Awards


"Reflective in nature, these poems use form--from slant-rhyming couplets to prose poems--to limn the tensions of readjustment, and mine memory for stories that keep the author rooted to a place that will forever and never be his. Throughout the collection, Berman's images sear the brain with their often-perplexing otherness, while his openness to new cultures and peoples help readers understand how beautiful the world's strangeness can be. This is a must-have book for readers of poetry."  Publishers Weekly Starred Review


"Ben Berman's riveting first poetry collection, Strange Borderlands... poignantly conveys an insistent and nettlesome remembering, a half-wild entertaining of meaning, along with an unsettled understanding that there might not be any."  Jan Worth-Nelson, Peace Corps Writers


"In this collection of poems inspired by his experiences in Zimbabwe as a Peace Corps volunteer, Ben Berman manages to capture the ephemeral quality of cultural collisions. Sometimes humorous, sometimes soul wrenching, these poems explore the edges of difference with a wry and tender voice." World Literature Today

"What I admire most about these poems, beyond their intense imagery and the tensions constructed between dark and light, is the clear love and respect this poet demonstrates for his subject matter. There is a human scale to each poem that helps the reader walk the trails of this landscape however unfamiliar they may have been until that moment." Miriam O'Neal, Ragazine

"Laughter is everywhere in the people and in the humor unearthed even from the misery many of these poems describe--it becomes a language of its own...The misjudgments and gaffes that result in the constant battering of Berman in Zimbabwe end up creating a surety, a line of communication, a bulwark against all that threatened to collapse." Valerie Duff-Strautmann, Salamander Magazine 


Ben Berman’s wonderful first book, Strange Borderlands, is a masterful study in the power and limits of empathy, of respect for difference in tension with the urgent need for common ground. Beyond his formal and stylistic range, linguistic flexibility, eye for detail, irrepressible wit and powerful feeling, what’s most impressive about this terrific book is Berman’s inclusive generous spirit, the deadly serious imaginative play he exercises in every line of every poem. This is a book to cherish.
                        —Alan Shapiro


These are poems that weigh, consider, and restore some flesh-and-blood meaning to the experience of multiculturalism, a word so overused it is often flattened out to a platitude or piety. But not in this book.
                        —Fred Marchant (from the “Foreword”)


Ben Berman’s lyric poems set in Zimbabwe dig deep into the casual and the casualty of daily life:  the hammer striking the sheep’s head, the sustenance that follows; disciplinary beatings that students, giggly and protesting, could count and count on to fade.  Unassuming but wise, compassionate yet wildly, unpredictably funny at times, Berman delivers to us escalating hardships that somehow elevated us toward the sacred; the pathetic harvest and sweetness that comes from the least likely of places. This least likely of places is where Berman thrives, calling on closely observed facts to chronicle the perimeters of tenderness and cruelty. I believe every word in this collection. This is an unforgettable debut by a powerful and humble voice.
                        —Dzvinia Orlowsky


Ben Berman’s marvelous first book, Strange Borderlands, chronicles in startling and unforgettable poems his sojourn in Zimbabwe and his immersion in a culture that both embraces and exiles him, attracts and reproaches, changing him forever. Using a variety of poetic approaches—rhymed couplets, prose paragraphs, sonnets, free verse—he gives us a multi-tonal description of landscapes that are as elusive as they are inviting, as unfamiliar to most of us as they are intuitively recognizable. This is a compelling poetry of “strange borderlands where distance and intimacy collide.”
                        —Gregory Djanikian