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Anselm Berrigan, Alice Notley and Edmund Berrigan read from The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan


Anselm

At Saint Marks Bookstore on the evening of April 5, 2011, I recorded Anselm Berrigan, his brother, Edmund, and his mother, Alice Notley, reading from The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan, which they had just edited, and had published by University of California Press. Anselm read first from Tambourine Life, sections 1 to 23.




Alice

If you wanted a poet to read your poems out loud in front of an audience, Alice Notley would be a good choice because she is very careful when she reads a word, so that even if her tongue should slip—although this rarely happens—she will go back and get it right. She knows her words and she is very there with them, at one. I wish I’d been a little more still and as perfect with my camera as Alice was with her reading.

Here, she reads from Easter Monday, after mentioning that Ted spent years “tinkering” with the poems in it. It made me remember something Ted Berrigan said at a workshop I was in, something I didn’t think was important at the time, but that turned out to be significant. Ted said that you make a poem like you make a chair or a table, you put it together. In my mid-twenties, when I heard this, I was still pretty dependent on inspiration. I watched Ted work his hands in the air, as if he held a word in them, putting the word here, putting it there, then taking it out again, looking at it, sanding it off a little bit, and then putting it back again looking for the perfect spot, where it belonged.

Here are some of Ted’s tinkered poems.




Edmund

Edmund Berrigan read from A Certain Slant of Sunlight. He was the last to read, but not the least; each of them had read perfectly well partly perhaps because they’d just come from the careful task of editing, as close to the words as they could get.




Saint Marks Bookshop

Saint Marks Bookshop, where this reading took place, used to be on Saint Marks Place near Second Avenue on the south side of the street. That was where Edmund bought his first book of poems, a volume of Dylan Thomas. It was also where I first met Ted Berrigan. I’d come up from Philly—mid 70s—to put some copies of a magazine, hot off the presses, that I’d just edited called Hybris (a hybrid of the word hubris) on the shelves of that bookstore. And there was Ted Berrigan as affable as he was big. I gave him a copy of Hybris immediately, and as he looked through it, he thanked me and asked me to “Say hello to Jet Wimp for me,” a poet in the magazine who was also a friend of mine. Standing in Saint Marks Bookshop talking to Ted Berrigan made me, a kid from the boondocks, feel I was exactly where I belonged.

Because of rising rents, Saint Marks Bookshop had to move to East 9th Street along Third Avenue where it faces west toward NYU and Astor Place, and north too where you can see the Empire State Building rising above mid-town. Times change, but words don’t.

The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan is published by University of California Press. You can check them out here:

http://www.ucpress.edu/


Anselm, Edmund and Alice

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