by John Stevens Berry
178 pages, May 2023
Published by Solo Press
Designed by Benjamin Daniel Lawless
In this profoundly moving free verse memoir, John Stevens Berry gives us unforgettable insights into war, small town America, and a life fully lived.
JSB is a war poet who gets it right.
- James J. Spanel, Silver Star recipient, Vietnam
I used to think J.S. Berry was a famous attorney who had once studied poetry with Yvor Winters at Stanford. Now I realize, after reading these poems, that he’s really a famous poet who has been disguising himself as an attorney for the past 57 years.
– Marcia Southwick
Poetry, contrary to a couple centuries of error, is the language of warriors. From marching “Jodies” to Samoan Hakas, from Viking skalds to chivalric bards, from lays to chansons, flyting to “slams,” the art of language has been celebrated in the poetry of conflict, sometimes as inspiration – sometimes as substitute.
I can imagine that some who know John Stevens Berry as a Rabelesian rouser, a man as fully content as an agitator where calm would otherwise reign, or perhaps a solemn barrister in the model of Horace Rumpole, might be flummoxed by the notion of him as, of all things, a poet! But I would argue that if I knew nothing of J.S. other than his work in the courts, I would wonder why he was not composing poetry. He is a master of language as surely as he is a master of jurisprudence.
The poets in my life have been more like J.S. “Mad Dog” Berry than Ernie Kovac’s Percy Dovetonsils: Bill Kloefkorn, Jim Harrison, John Neihardt, Bunky EchoHawk… Warriors… poets. Indeed, our mutual friend and late Nebraska State Poet, Bill Kloefkorn, wrote of Berry, “In an age of froth and whimsy, Berry gives us poems made of iron. He is a demanding poet. His poems require close listening, rather than mere skimming. Sometimes he assumes that the reader is familiar with classical antiquity. In short, he breaks all the contemporary rules. But his poems are strong and true. That still counts for something.”