“Really, what can you do with love?”
Bergman’s Island and Other Poems is a collection of over three dozen of Ralph Monday’s best poems, exploring 20th century history, American culture, film, and more. In the tradition of Wallace Stevens and other modernist poets, Monday holds a magnifying glass up to our debased society and the quirks of a nation in decline.
Originally published as an e-book by Poetry Repairs in 2017, Terror House Press is proud to bring Bergman’s Island and Other Poems back for a new audience. The book includes several poems published by Terror House Magazine in 2019 and 2020.
“Award-winning author Kate Christensen once said that ‘Nostalgia is a powerful drug.’ In times of personal duress, we may find ourselves engaging in what psychologists call ‘euphoric recall.’ It is an overly idealized reconstruction of the past. One of the strongest themes in Ralph Monday’s Bergman’s Island and Other Poems is that of nostalgia. The speakers range from the walking, war-torn dead longing for life in ‘Lost German Girl’ to the broken and lonely searching for human connections in ‘Dirty Moons’ and even includes a manifestation of Wallace Stevens’ languid heroine who now sees ‘Sunday Morning’ from more worldly, cynical eyes. This nostalgia is a painkiller, a meticulously crafted psychological narcotic distilled from a foggy past into a simpler, more naive time of drugstore counters and quiet dusty roads populated by Rockwell smiles and the rounded fenders of postwar Packards; an inoculation to combat the present. Monday has offered us not a fix to keep us glassy-eyed while we numb ourselves, but instead a cure for our disease, ‘A Prayer for Those That are Plugged In.’ In this, we also find another pervasive theme of Monday’s collection: the very real tragic nature of nostalgia. It drips and pools in such pieces as ‘Waiting’ and ‘What Good is Love?’ and seems to scream ‘Why can’t we go back? Why must it always be forward’ in ‘Still Life with Random Thoughts.’ Monday tells us the hard-won wisdom of a simpler past may be the cure for our existential woes, but like a massive monument that looms on the horizon, it appears much closer than it really is. As Monday reminds us in ‘Same Old Song,’ ‘We all want to return from exile, somehow, someway, but Wolfe was right, no way home again.’” — Matt Hundley
“Ralph Monday’s Bergman’s Island and Other Poems is an homage to Western civilization and mythology. History books tell the facts of history, but art, particularly poetry, describes events and culture through the experience of the people. Monday specifically focuses on the female perspective. A ‘lost German girl’ ‘walks death’s road’ and surveys the destruction of World War II. A female voice ponders ‘how different it would have been’ if mythology and life had happier endings. Throughout this collection, Monday combines the past and present: movie directors and actresses of the mid-20th century and ‘the land of the electronic zombies’ created by modern technology and social media. Each poem takes the reader on a nostalgic tour of the human experience.” — Abigail Schoolfield, Associate English Professor, Roane State Community College
“In Bergman’s Island and Other Poems, history’s wisdom and truth lie scattered across the modern age. The immensity of their brokenness is an ocean’s weight that stuns with its ‘disintegrated fish bones,’ the ruins that humans seek to contain and make familiar ‘like artificial snow in a glass winter globe.’ These poems caution against replacing cultural mythologies with personal ones, for in doing so, we risk becoming islands that tremble and sink beneath the tides of what we cannot retrieve. Ralph Monday asks how we might learn from history if we regard it merely as an amusing curio and warns that we can love only if we understand the timeless commonality of suffering and doubt. In a cadence pairing the rhythms of human longing and resolve, this collection proposes that we find meaning in loss by fathoming the depths that surround each of us, by stirring ‘the dark between the stars.'” — De Anna Stephens, Associate Professor of English, Roane State Community College
Bergman’s Island and Other Poems is also available in paperback format. To purchase the paperback edition, click here.