David Berman Actual Air

Drag City
27th January 2023

Format Info


Hardcover edition, full colour end-sheets, enlarged typeface. First published, Open City, 1999. Published Drag City 2019.

In the unending daily cascade of new words and music, each fighting for our attention, a few modest things take on an unlikely permanence. David Berman’s work belongs in this category. Whether it be with the Silver Jews, Purple Mountains or through his writing, there’s an economical grace, humanity and mesmerising way with words which marks out its own special space.

There really isn’t enough David Berman work out there in our world – he held so much back, considered it not good enough or forgot to get it published. Actual Air is the only anthology of his poetry for now, a slim enchanting volume which is accessible, fun and profound. The titles alone should sell it to anyone in love with the language of our times… Classic Water, Cassette County, World: Series, The New Idea, Piano and Scene.

I’m looking at an email he sent in 2011. “I can’t help but feel like there is a surplus of music in the world. I’m wondering if I can be helpful elsewhere. I haven’t found what that might be.”

“I come to the window and title the eras
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

and watch the wind in the tension of the blown trees,
the moon illuminated by my attention.
When something passes in the dark,
I try to tell its side of the story.

“I am passing someone in the dark,” it thinks…

David Berman