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Richard M. Berlin’s fifth collection of poems, TENDER FENCES, spans the arc of the poet’s career as a doctor and psychiatrist. Beginning with his family’s hopes and expectations, and his own dream to become a doctor, Berlin explores the challenges of medical and psychiatric training, his years of practice, and the deep rewards that grow from healing relationships structured by a “tender fence” which provides the necessary boundaries for closeness and distance. Berlin’s voice touches on themes of intimacy, love, the doctor-patient relationship, the drama of psychotherapy, a doctor’s sense of responsibility, transience, aging, and the satisfactions that come from a healer’s life. With these poems, Richard M. Berlin confirms that medical and psychiatric practice fit well with Pablo Neruda’s description of poetry as, “Entrance into the depth of things in a headlong act of love.”
”A twenty first century William Carlos Williams.” – Booklist
”Clear, honest, direct, and - what doctors usually can’t afford to be - vulnerable, Richard M. Berlin’s poems make me feel good about the health of American medicine and poetry.” – Charles Harper Webb
”Berlin’s writing sheds all doctrines and poses. His poetry is about the revelation that emerges at the edge between our knowledge of the world provided to us by science or maturation, and the chaotic understructure that throws up in front of us surprises that are both wanted and unwanted.” – Paul R. Fleishman, MD
In his 40's, Dr. Berlin began writing poetry. His first collection of poems, How JFK Killed My Father, won the Pearl Poetry Prize (2002) and was published by Pearl Editions. He used the prize money to establish a creative writing award for medical, nursing, and doctoral students at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. The Award is now in its twentieth year. His second collection of poetry, Secret Wounds, won the 2010 John Ciardi Prize in Poetry from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and was published by BkMk Press. Secret Wounds was also selected as the best general poetry book of 2011 by USA Book News. His third collection, Practice (2015), published by Brick Road Poetry Press, was a Finalist for the Brick Road Poetry Prize. Berlin's fourth poetry book, Freud On My Couch (2021), was published by Dos Madres Press. He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Code Blue (Winner of the Poetry Society of South Carolina Chapbook Prize, 1999) and The Prophecy (Pudding House Press Chapbook Prize, 2010). Berlin's work has also received Finalist awards for the Kate Tufts Discovery Prize, and the Paris Review Prize. His poem, "The Fisherman," was commissioned by Mark Ludwig for the anthology, Liberation: Poems on Freedom by Internationally Renowned Poets. Berlin's poems have appeared in a broad array of anthologies, literary journals, and medical journals including his column "Poetry of the Times," which has featured one of his poems every month for the past twenty six years in Psychiatric Times, the most influential and widely read psychiatric publication in America, with over 40,000 print copies and over one million website visitors each month. Since 2020, he has been the host of a weekly Psychiatric Times video series, "Any Good Poem," in which he reads a poem of his choosing. He lives in a small, rural town in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.