Distribution Automatique

Friday, July 4

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 01:18:14 -0400
To: plist
From: Simon/Piombino
Subject: Ted Berrigan

I've enjoyed reading posts about Ted Berrigan by Erik, Simon Schuchat, Jordan Davis, Henry Gould and others. In 1967 I attended Ted's workshop at the Poetry Project. Some years later, as he did with many others,Ted gave me some very much appreciated support,including recommending some poems of mine to Simon Schuchat and Eileen Myles who were publishing mimeo magazines in the early to middle 70's.(By the way, Ted confided in me that he was particularly impressed by Mr. Schuchat's" brilliance" and writing talents).I had heard Ted read a few times before attending his workshop and had been deeply impressed and truly excited by his poetry and his manner of reading. Ted's readings had a special combination of humor, sincerity, affection, spontaneity and sheer poetic intensity and beauty which have been rarely equalled in contemporary poetry. Ted put great emphasis on the importance of giving poetry readings in the career of a poet. In his own way, he was a great actor. As a teacher, a reader, and a mentor he gave of himself completely. Hardly a week or two goes by in my life when I do not think about him. I go back to his work constantly and keep discovering new things. His work and his person were unforgettably inspiring.Something about his person and his approach to poetry made a great many people excited about poetry in an unusual way, perhaps because of his way of sharing his special passion and devotion to the art, perhaps because of his way of emanating and encouraging more joy and pleasure in writing and living. It is possible that later in life he paid a price for adamantly refusing to take himself, writing- or anything- seriously to the point of eliminating any possible generosity, warmth, joy and spontaneity. Perhaps he was an example of a "60's casualty", something Charles Bernstein long ago pointed out as a cautionary tale, though I don't like to think about this too much. I think I agree with Henry Gould in what he seemed to be saying about Berrigan's combining of the quotidian with high art. Berrigan's irrepressible passion for life made all passions seem more possible and more necessary. I cannot look at an exclamation point without thinking of him!

Here are a few lines from a poem by Carter Ratcliff published in 1969 in "The World Anthology" edited by Anne Waldman:


Arrive at eight-thirty
Arrive early when the table is strewn with banners all strewn with
table-shaped stars....
Notice who was there all the time
Read things on the wall
Dismiss this project immediately
Concentrate on the poem being read....
Say that a a poem is great because the poet speaks of important things
in his own voice....
Disagree with anything anybody else says,especially what Charles, Ted,
Nick and Scott say
Agree with everything anybody says....
Be jealous of everybody
Approve of this sentiment and its intensity....


Hope to hear more from others about Ted Berrigan.

Nick Piombino