Monday, May 28

Spotlight on … Ted Berrigan: The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan


Alex Katz / Ted Berrigan
"'Mess and Message,' the final three words of a poem in Ted Berrigan’s 1969 book, Many Happy Returns, describe perfectly and succinctly what makes his poetry compelling. The message of his poetry is the mess that is life. Appropriation figures in large and fascinating ways in this message. The very words 'mess and message' are copied, as is the entire poem in which they appear, 'Frank O’Hara’s Question from Writers and Issues by John Ashbery'. Berrigan produced surprisingly numerous kinds of meaning by pilfering all sorts of pre-existing sentences, fragments, and whole passages of writing (literary and prosaic), not to mention visual imagery. Berrigan understood that from time immemorial poets had imitated, if not downright copied, earlier poets in order to establish their literary genealogy. A helpful genealogy of appropriative writing—with the earliest example dating to the late nine- teenth century, and including Ted Berrigan—was recently drawn up by the poet and art critic Raphael Rubenstein, who aptly puts himself into the genealogy, just as Berrigan would have done. ..."
Dennis Cooper Blog (Video)

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