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Further notes from irrelevance

By Anselm Berrigan

The above title is the above title because I’ve already written a fifty but soon to be forty-seven or so page poem called “Notes from Irrelevance”,  and, yes, you might and should feel horrified already unless you know that I know what I’m doing, though that may be of no help. I hope to not know what I’m doing when I write, though not when I live, which is what feeds the writing. Actually I got to print the first ten pages very recently but I used “of” instead of “from” and have since made the deep switch.  I totally dig irrelevance. Not because I’m one of those horrible cheap fuckers who teaches, though I am, and I like it, and I’m good at it, or so I think some of the time, but much of the time it’s hard to tell, because teaching is one of those jobs that’s like that, and I get very interested in my students’ minds, much to my emotional detriment, as Karen, a poet, and also my spouse, god, who, if you deem god a who, I don’t believe in, though the cosmos are awfully vast, so please drop the who part, help her, occasionally points out. Not because I have no desire to lick the cash-fat rectum of the art world in order to peddle my ideas, though I most certainly do not, and anyway don’t have any ideas to peddle, which may be the answer to the question in the first place, the one you didn’t ask, but I did. And not because I’m into irony, though I certainly don’t mind it, even though I don’t ever really think about it, and while we’re on the subject I think cynicism is pretty useful, or can be, if you’re already paying attention, because, as Carl Rakosi said, at age 95, in 1998, to a student asking how he felt about rampant cynicism among the young, an American youth’s question if ever there was one, and a valid one nonetheless, “it keeps you from being tricked!” meaning cynicism. And that fella paid attention, or so I have been made to understand, and do believe. He was a poet. I know and have known poets who are or have been lawyers, cab drivers, presidents of foundations, nurses, teachers, emergency medical workers, labor activists, activists of all stripes, secretaries, receptionists, dance critics, scientists, copy editors, web designers, engineers, art critics, rich, small business owners of wide variety, social workers, unemployed and/or homeless, nannies, tutors, window washers, dish washers, messengers, house cleaners, investment bankers, heavy machine operators, hedge fund traders, poker players, baseball players, copy machine operators – I have done this one several times, way before it was cool, which is my equivalent of releasing a song so good and exceptional it has to be sung into a hole in the ground before anyone hears it in order not to have sold out, the song I mean, and I’ll never do that fucking job again, unless I have no choice, and I can see that happening, the no choice part – bar tenders, translators, and lots of other things, and poets. My Mom is a poet who is also a poet, and she can out-“fuck you” almost anyone I know. Sometimes I’ve worried that my capacity to dish out a real strong “fuck you” that has genuine thought, feeling, and application behind it is on the wane, and, you know, it’s pretty awesome to have a Mom who can help you find that inner “fuck you” you need to get through things like life and death and dealing with assholes (though it doesn’t help much if -you’re- the asshole, or suspect you are), most of whom, in my experience, are not poets, though it’s no well-paved road, I’ll tell you, especially when you’re the one receiving it (I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of poets by the way, which means I’ve encountered a few dozen assholes, more or less, among them; it’s a matter of scale). I was reading this book, this vaguely weird book of interviews with and essays on W. G. Sebald yesterday on the subway – there was a guy next to me with a ten or twelve foot long boa constrictor in a bag nearby, which I know because he had the boa, one of those yellow and lightly orange ones that I’ve seen at least three or four dozen times in my life being carried around the shoulders of some human in New York City, out on his neck on the platform before the L arrived – and at one point Sebald said this, in response to being asked about his tendency to take care in listening to speakers who are not being reviled in the slightest, “….I do like to listen to people who have been sidelined for one reason or another. Because in my experience once they begin to talk, they have things to tell you that you won’t be able to get from anywhere else…..” and that helped. I just need a little help here and there. Daily. Like anyone. Even though I hate similes. Which is why I dig irrelevance.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 by Anselm Berrigan.