Tidewater Community College English instructor Daniel “D.L.” Pearlman has a way with words.
In the last two years, his poetry has received five awards, including the 2019 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for his book of poetry, “Normal They Napalm the Cottonfields.” The prize was presented to Pearlman in December at the Dogfish Inn.
Pearlman also received the 2019 first-place award from the Poetry Society of Virginia (PSoV) for his poem “When Morning Comes After Noon.”
Founded in 1923 at William and Mary, the PSoV is the second oldest state poetry society in the nation, sponsoring contests annually for students and adults.
“My work evolves out of my passion for old and decaying things – including farmhouses and other structures,” Pearlman said. “I enjoy spending weekends traveling the back roads of Virginia and North Carolina to find hidden treasures. I see beauty in the decay and my writing can reflect that back and relate it to the human experience.”
On his travels, Pearlman takes photos of broken-down houses, cars and tractors to inspire his work.
“My approach can be brutal, intense and often surreal,” Pearlman said. “I’m not afraid to confront difficult things – even death. But my work is not dark; it’s hopeful.”
Pearlman teaches English composition courses at the college’s Chesapeake Campus. He is also on the planning team and will read his works during the college’s Literary Festival in April.
While Pearlman does not share his writing with students in class, he does talk about the process to aid in building critical thinking skills. “We often talk about how personal experiences and current events shape our thinking and beliefs,” he said. “We discuss issues like preservation of natural resources, the beauty of nature, importance of local history and the impact of industry, just to name a few. My travels certainly add to our discussions.”
Pearlman’s other recent awards include the Don Frew Contest, First Place; Ada Sanderson Contest, Second Place; and Emma Gray Gregg Contest, Second Place.
Comes After Noon”
by D.L. Pearlman
Inside a barn with no roof,
inside a line of trees and a field
the sun and clouds still farm, I touch
a rusted revolver sleeping like a dead
kitten, its barrel pocked as if bitten
by fleas desperate for blood.
Under diagonal shafts of sun,
there’s nothing left in the stalls
except assumptions like
this farm does not deserve to be forgotten
or the messenger does not deserve
to be shot in the mouth.
In the barren center of the shadowed silo,
crossroads of fear and elation,
I find the absence of time
When evening lives at odds with
the concept of darkness during day,
where work made heat and where
no gravestones whisper, the long
dirt road gives its arms away
to what may come and what may remain.