Sometimes A Poet Gets Depressed

David Berman is profiled in today’s New York Times. He discusses his decision to fall back on indie rock stardom when poetry didn’t work out right away.

“Like they used to say about Joe Montana, he threw soft because he couldn’t throw hard,” Mr. Berman said on a recent visit to New York. “He was successful because he didn’t try to do what he couldn’t.” Mr. Berman knew he could write lyrics: “I couldn’t rock out harder than everybody, or overpower people with mastery like Jack White of the White Stripes, so why try? That’s why I’ve always worked harder on words.”

It didn’t hurt that his best friends were becoming rock stars. In the early 90’s, Mr. Berman was working as a security guard at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan and living in New Jersey with Bob Nastanovich and Stephen Malkmus, founders of the influential alternative rock band Pavement. On a hand-me-down guitar from Mr. Malkmus, Mr. Berman found that a bluesy, country-tinged rock suited his blend of limited musical abilities and great lyrical ambition. Delivered in a deep, largely uninflected voice that recalls Lou Reed, Mr. Berman’s songs showcased his surprising metaphors (“the alleys are the footnotes of the avenues”) and vivid similes (“the icicles are dripping like the whole house is weeping”).

For your listening pleasure:

Silver Jews – “Buckingham Rabbit” (MP3)