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Sneaking the sunrise past a rooster

By Anselm Berrigan

For me the poem or the individual work supersedes the book, as forms go. If they happen to be one and the same, that works. I mean, I like to read and get wrapped up in something, and I’ll read a book of poems from page one to the end on occasion, though that habit was really enabled during a period of review writing that I don’t completely regret. And the work, or the poem, or the thing, supersedes the idea or the intention, for me, particularly if the latter is being propped up on the surface of the former. In that I need an experience in order to have a conversation. I’m not so interested in being handed an overly managed engagement with a piece of writing, mainly because I’m not so interested in being handed a frame and told to keep inside. I like things I can read fast and I like things I can struggle with. Not everyone wants that struggle, and I don’t want it all the time, and the tough or odd piece has to be working on several levels for me to stay with it anyway, as does any piece of “clear” writing. Literal is just one level. Sometimes one poem is enough for one person’s life. I know a lot of liars who are very clear. I don’t believe for a second that writing is behind any of the other arts, and I find reading through a fairly sensitive, intelligent set of articulations on a particular subject only to get slapped at the end with a crass generalization that was dumb and inaccurate the first time around to be more than mildly dispiriting. But that’s fine. I can read the work and skip the yap. Having a kid has made the writing come faster when I get to the space of letting it happen. I am finding, also, coming off of A.E. Stallings’ recent post, that it’s less about time and more about space, head space, body space, being alone surrounded by strangers, clearing out or giving into my habits such as they may be. Writing for months without typing it up. Training my mind to rethink its relationship to the sentence, despite a feeling that prose, not the lyric, is the dominant mode of poetry these days. What’s a little trickier is keeping the sources of information variable. In that vein some of the posts on this blog, many of them, are helpful, especially things like Javier Huerta’s post on the detestable SB 1070 and its corrosive unminding of law. I need more sources, always. Separately, if I go into a zone in a piece I’m making that’s going to be out or off or gray or obscure or something of the like to someone else, I’m not doing it as part of a program or theory about language or reading or what have you. I’m working with materials, and I’m interested in that combination for any number of reasons, none of which are systematic, most of which come out of some experience, and I’m taking part in making another experience, and I figure if you stay with the piece it’ll come together for you on one level or another. And if it doesn’t you move on, which you will anyway. When I read I can get into having all kinds of experiences, and part of the reason I write is to be able to take part in making that happen, to get in on it from as many angles as I can work it up to perceive. I come away from Wanda Coleman’s posts startled and wanting to write, seeing her carve out a space in this blog tonality that doesn’t always feel available.  I feel the executor situation acutely. Who is going to take care of that work if you don’t? Who is going to keep it circulating? Who takes care of those individuals who don’t fit into the programs? My father’s work would not be back in the mix if my mother didn’t put her shoulder to that wheel, no matter how many people dug The Sonnets back whenever. Don’t try and tell me otherwise. Speaking of my mother, I’m happy for her. She has a book just out she wrote right after Disobedience (another one of those public works addressing nations that no piece of visual art could possibly be anything like) back in the mid-90s, a few years after she effectively emigrated to Paris and took on self-exile from the States. Reason and Other Women. It’s messy, “difficult”, unwieldy, wild, formally expansive to the blow out level, and there’s nothing else like it, in her body of work or anyone else’s. She’s another one of those artists who changes constantly, which means the generalizations of description will never take. After more than a decade of rejections and false starts, this book is finally out, and I’ll go hear her read from it tonight.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 by Anselm Berrigan.