Stella Beratlis

Stella Beratlis

Stella Beratlis grew up in a second-generation Greek-American family in Northern California. Her latest collection, Dust Bowl Venus, was published in May 2021. She is also the author of Alkali Sink (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2015). Her work has also appeared in numerous journals, including Harbor Review, Penumbra, Song of the San Joaquin, In-Posse Review, and California Quarterly, as well as in the anthologies The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems from the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010) and California Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology (Story Streets, 2020). She is coeditor of the collection More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets (Quercus Review Press, 2011) and served as the poet laureate of Modesto from 2016–2020. Beratlis lives in Modesto and is a librarian there.

Dust Bowl Venus

“With tenderness, wit and humor, Dust Bowl Venus explores the fragility of love, good health and the earth. Rooted not just in the places of the City of Modesto but also in the music, legends, and community of the Central Valley, these poems brilliantly reflect a struggle to find beauty in the contradictions of our contemporary lives. Amazingly thoughtful and musical, these are poems we should all read.” —July Halebsky, author of Sky=Empty, Tree Line, and Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged)

“Stella Beratlis’s Dust Bowl Venus animates California’s Central Valley as a postmodern Prometheus, an eco-sapient Frankenstein with whom we wrangle, wrestle, and fall madly in love. Marked with sass and grit and grace, Beratlis’s imagistic associations jolt and jump cut in powers of ten. These poems stir us with the urgency of the Anthropocene, excite ‘a thicket of nerves,’ and form a ‘mycorrhizal web’ that connects us to the mantle of deep time.” —Rosa Lane, author of Chouteau’s Chalk and Tiller North

“The poems in Stella Beratlis’s Dust Bowl Venus ring with the clarity of a shovel strike against stone, each line cracking against the next, igniting spark after glorious spark. And yet, like the seasonal lake bed on which Modesto sits, like the many hands ‘making mud out of dry soil,; every poem aches toward tenderness. In one poem, Beratlis asks ‘What grows here?’ before revealing the bounty—heirloom tomatoes, holy basil, kindness—that can be coaxed from this ‘city of drought.’ But darker things grow here, too: a tumor ‘the consistency of a potato,’ fear, terror that ‘builds cell by sticky cell.’ Here, to grow, and to love, is to risk vulnerability. These ‘bone and ligament narratives’ of grief and yearning, illness and healing, perseverance and resistance, beat with so much heart in this fiercely beautiful book.” —Erin Rodoni, author of Body, in Good Light and A Landscape for Loss

Alkali Sink

“Stella Beratlis writes unforgettable poems that stir inside you long after you’ve finished reading them. Alkali Sink is simultaneously domestic and wild, urban and rural, full of surprises and wisdom. Your axis may shift after reading this remarkable book. Beratlis is a fierce talent whose beautiful mind encompasses the land, the open road, the kitchen window, and the heart’s inconstancies. Her first full-length collection is one of the best debuts I have read.”   —Lee Herrick, author of Gardening Secrets of the Dead

“In her poem ‘Vitreous Detachment,’ Stella Beratlis asks ‘How do I know?’ In Alkali Sink, a book that is at once sly and precise, honest and unique, Beratlis’s faith in both the interior and exterior worlds can be trusted enough to believe she can answer: with ‘the names of things and their pulpy centers.’ This is a poet in love with the dirt and the lamb, the armored car and the terrible sadness, with chaos and linear thought—everything that might ‘illuminate the several darknesses of the heart’ and the ‘multiplicity of the selves’ within a soul.         —Julia Levine, author of Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight

“Alkali Sink reads like ‘a locomotive / speeding through a native West / changing the scale of my earth.’ Central California races toward Greece, memory races toward reality, old age races toward youth, but the poems take their time, too, the way trains do, and I can peer into backyards and orchards and used-car lots as I go. At first I was here and now I am there, and the world I see is different because of how these poems moved me. Stella Beratlis has written a beautiful book.”   —Camille T. Dungy, author of Smith Blue

Joan Gelfand reviews Alkali Sink in

Alkali Sink is one of 6 nominees for the Northern California Book Award in poetry, 2016.

Today’s Book of Poetry blog reviews Alkali Sink.

Read poems from Alkali Sink.

Reviews, interviews, and articles

Beratlis is appointed poet laureate of Modesto.

Linda Scheller’s review of Dust Bowl Venus, appearing in the Summer 2021 Issue of The Writing Disorder.

American Microreviews and Interviews

KCBP “Arts of the San Joaquin Valley.” Interview with Linda Scheller,  May 24, 2021 episode:

KQBM “A Way with Words.” Interview with Linda Toren, May 5, 2021 episode:

“Thoughts on Stella Beratlis” by Sam Pierstorff, article in ModestoView, March 5, 2021:

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