Tuesday, April 24, 2007

LOCKED FROM THE OUTSIDE by Susan Timmons (winner of the inaugural Ted Berrigan Award) 

Recently I fell into (HAPPILY FELL INTO) contact with Susan Timmons! I told her how her out-of-print book LOCKED FROM THE OUTSIDE was this unicorn I'd been chasing with all the mighty praise from Eileen Myles, Erica Kaufman and others. And how, about a year ago today, I was in Buffalo with Buck Downs, Kevin Thurston and Michael Basinski, deep inside the stacks and stacks of poetry in that school's extraordinary library. Michael asked if there was anything I wanted to see, and without hesitation I said SUSAN TIMMONS PLEASE! And there it was, THE BOOK, and I was finally touching it, and reading it for the first time! And without a doubt that taste made the appetite for these poems all the stronger!

Timmons was kind enough to mail me a copy of the book! And I started reading it as soon as I pulled it out of my post office box, and then I walked onto the street reading it, unable to stop! And I called my good friend Frank Sherlock, still at home recovering from meningitis and TOLD HIM I HAD TO SHOW HIM! And I went over to his apartment and we read the book from cover to cover out loud! Fantastic! Not a single lagging moment! Not a droopy, limp line to be found! Not that I look for droopy, limp lines, they just tend to find you on their own. But no, none! Just tight BRILLIANCE, and there's no really good fucking reason WHY this book is out of print! Anyone serious about poetry NEEDS to read this book!

She gave me permission to reprint a poem and to excerpt the preface by Alice Notley. You'll see for yourselves now! Does someone know a publisher who is smart enough to reprint this? This book should be used in creative writing classes everywhere! These poems should have been included in that recent, ridiculous Oxford American Poetry Anthology! Let that boring bastard Billy Collins give up a couple of his many pages! Here, see for yourselves:

from the book LOCKED FROM THE OUTSIDE by Susan Timmons
(winner of the inaugural Ted Berrigan Award)

a small excerpt from Alice Notley's preface:
One of the more pronounced themes of Ted Berrigan's poetry career was his encouragement of younger poets: he spoke & practiced an ethic of encouragement. Partly he was obsessed by the fact that he had managed to become a poet in spite of obstacles of class background & everyone's & his general obtuseness about poetry. One thing he used to say was to the effect, "All I've ever wanted is to be a poet, & I've gotten my wish... And I didn't say 'great poet'--I don't want that--I said 'poet.'" The implication was that to want to be a "great poet" was a slightly inferior aspiration; to be a poet was magical & complete. (Whether or not he was a great poet is another topic.) But, in his view, poetry was also a profession, like others, a very honorable one, & not exclusive or special. Anyone who really wanted to be a poet should of course be welcome into the guild, whatever that person's aesthetic persuasions. In his years of teaching--both in universities & institutions & on his own in our apartment or on the streetcorner (he continuously taught)--he actively searched for new poets, read anyone's manuscript, talked to anyone who might be willing to serve poetry out of the love for it. He catalyzed many people into the profession. And though he seemed to proselytize for the New York School--because he had found his kind of wit & inspiration there--he liked all kinds of poetry & understood very well different poets' different drives & needs. So the idea of a Ted Berrigan Award to a young poet, with book publication as the prize, is not only fitting, it's obvious. I'm pleased to announce the existence of the annual Ted Berrigan Award, given by the Yellow Press, & that the winner of the first annual Ted Berrigan Award is Susan Timmons.

2 poems from LOCKED FROM THE OUTSIDE by Susan Timmons
(is it just me for fuck sake or is it impossible to choose ONE POEM from this book!? I just want to reprint the whole thing for you right here, right now! Finally I got down to two poems, and I don't even know how I did that frankly, but I can't choose between these two now, I just can't. Forget it. So I'm reprinting both of them for you. They're so good! And let me tell you right now, the whole book is THIS GOOD!)


A ghostly shark

three pianos wide

or long, Ann says the water is sex

but maybe Ann is sex instead!

attached to the back of the downtrodden

an inadvertent sign saying


oh me, oh my

giant baskets filled with every fruit

are purported to be a great luxury

but I don't care for fruit so much

I like chocolate

all I ever wanted the only thing I ever wanted

the one thing I ever wanted out of life

was to be King of the People.

Burn incense to be like you.

wear Tyrian Purple. retire early

all I ever wanted the only thing I ever wanted

the one thing I wanted out of life

was to feel you up.

and burn you up, baby, if I may be so bold



you've got a hole in your head and you
stuff it with money
yesterday I had a collision
and told him laughingly
I'd been planning for a long time
then I said
in the kind of world where we belong
you've got a hole in your head
and you stuff it with money
New York Senate Okays Death Penalty
aid approved to El Salvador
be more specific

Who are the real killers.
P I G S written on the pavement down there
2 women next to me talking about
"Ill Days"
wage slaves
her fat wrist pinched by a watch
and underneath the watch
is a runny sore, she's

every day is an "Ill Day."

(posted by CAConrad)

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