Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Take 'em to Church 

Speaking of Ted Berrigan- Jonathan Skinner, CA & I headed up the Jersey Turnpike last Wednesday on a pilgrimage. The Poetry Project hosted a celebration reading for the release of The Collected Poems. The night gushed rain. The streets were messy & the lights beautiful, just like Ted imagined life & poems. We talked about our first & favorite Berrigan poems on the ride to New York. The three of us heard our faves & firsts aloud once we got there.

Some highlights:

- Eileen Myles broke the tone of solemnity when she outed Ted Berrigan as a big lesbian, just before reading the sonnet that contains the classic lines, "Some people prefer the interior monologue/ I like to beat people up."

- Kit Robinson gave a Kit Berrigan reading of "Things to do in Providence"

- Ed Foster laid down a badass version of "Certain Slant of Sunlight"

- Pierre Joris was (as far as I know) the only poet who didn't read from work that wasn't in The Collected. He pulled out a piece of paper with words glued all over it that Berrigan gave him one New Year's Day in the 1970's.

- Alice Notley read the final poem Berrigan wrote. He wrote it laying in bed & watching an old film on TV, with Alice in the room.

- Anne Waldman & Alice Notley read from the end of my favorite, "Memorial Day". Just incredible & moving. And still moving.

The aesthetic diversity of the readers (from Bob Perelman to Jacqueline Waters to Andrei Codrescau) shines the vast influence of Ted Berrigan's force. Some are more reluctant to embrace it than others. But I saw it & I heard it. It's unmistakable in its grand & everyday presence. Thanks to all who shared the experience last week. Here's to falling in love with poetry all over again.

- Frank Sherlock

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