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"About the Work" with Katie Berta

In our “About the Work” series, Olga Mexina and Tom Sokolowski ask recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Katie Berta's work in SER Vol. 41.2.


These two poems are a part of my verse-novel project, which explores themes of identity, codependency, and individuation. In “[Wanting to be a servant of no one…]” the speaker of the verse-novel is finally leaving the cult-like living situation she’s been in for the duration of the book. As a quite inhibited person, I often think of our decisions as a series of small movements we make toward or away from something—like leaning in for a kiss—and sometimes, these small movements have monumental consequences. From the outside, these movements appear smooth and easy, though there are, perhaps, fireworks of nerves detonating underneath the surface to make them possible.

“[Dreaming of being singular],” on the other hand, was written during my year in Iowa City, when I lived in an upstairs studio apartment that looked down into the yard of some undergraduate boys. I watched them destroy the yard in the spring by having a massive party around a raging bonfire—the entire yard was mud. Looking down on them made me think of them looking up at me at night. My year in Iowa City was homely—while they threw their ragers, I did 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles and rewatched The Sopranos on my phone. Tough to have to imagine what frat guys think when they see you, who looks so old to them, living your homely life! It’s that imagining that causes the split of the last lines of the poem—the break “between you and me,” like the window keeping us apart.


KATIE BERTA has poems appearing or forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Denver Quarterly, The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Bennington Review, among other magazines. She has received residencies from Millay Arts and The Hambidge Center, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and an Iowa Review Award. She is the managing editor of The Iowa Review.


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