Alan Berecka is an accidental poet. Raised in rural New York by a blue collar family, his first childhood memory of being captivated by poetry was by a NFL Films half-time segment which set Rudyard Kipling’s If to game highlights. He started reading the Ogden Nash books in his school library. As an undergraduate at the University of Dallas, he became enamored with poetry of D H Lawrence and Gerard Manley Hopkins. After graduating, he worked as a telephone operator. Two years of meeting quotas and arguing over quarters made him nostalgic for academia, so he entered graduate school at the University of North Texas. While he was there, a graduate level creative writing class was offered. Berecka felt he wasted too much time writing poems that no one saw and that he didn’t spend enough time studying. Therefore, he took the class in hopes that Rick Sale (poet and professor) would tell him to stop writing. The plan backfired. Berecka ended up getting an A in the class and won the University’s poetry contest. Sale advised Berecka to change his degree plan. Under the tutelage of Rick Sale and Les Palmer, he wrote a creative thesis and graduated with an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies. At UNT Berecka met Alice Adams. The couple got married and had their first child Rachael. The only job the new graduate and father could find was throwing a paper route in Denton, so he entered Texas Woman’s University and finished a MLS. For two years, he worked North Adams State College in Massachusetts. For various reason the couple moved back to Texas. Berecka took a job at McLennan Community College in Waco. In their first month in Waco, the Berecka’s son Aaron was born. After Alan had become a librarian, he wrote little and submitted even less. And then, Dana Gioia came to MCC to read. Berecka was assigned to drive Gioia around during his stay. During those drives, the men had conversations about Elizabeth Bishop, the poet Berecka had been obsessed with in graduate school, and other aspects of poetry. When Gioia was leaving, he encouraged Berecka to attend the third West Chester Poetry Conference. In his mind Berecka had put writing poetry behind him, and spending money to attend a literary festival seemed to be a waste. Gioia wrote several letters to Berecka asking him why he hadn’t returned the application for the conference. Berecka was so conflicted that he decided to see his priest. He went expecting to be told to put the things of his childhood behind him. Instead Fr. Bill Carroll delivered a sermon on the parable of talents. Soon after Berecka found himself in Mark Jarman’s narrative poetry workshop. His desire to write rekindled, Berecka began a quest to improve his craft. He attended workshops given by such luminaries as BH Fairchild, Briget Pegeen Kelly, and Scott Cairns. His final surrender to poetry and the friendships it has brought him has enriched his life. He and Alice now live in Sinton, Texas where they raised their children. Alan earns his keep as librarian at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi.
UIL Facts: Everyonce in awhile high school speech teachers or students will contact me because they want to use a poem of mine in a contest and need to know when I was born and where. So in hopes of making life easier for them, here’s the facts:
Born: July 1959
Where: Utica, New York. I think the hospital might have been in New Hartford. I went home to Milgate Street in Utica though.
Grew up: After the first two years spent in Utica, I grew up in Stittville, New York.
High School Attended: Holland Patent Central High School. We didn’t move. Stittville Elementary fed into HP Middle and High Schools.
Degrees: BA Literature; University of Dallas
MA Interdisciplinary Studies; University of North Texas
MLS Adult Reference; Texas Woman’s University
I hope this will do. If not just drop me a line. And thanks so much for using my work. I wish you the best with your contests.