I remember being lazy and stupid and nonetheless curious. I remember the Optionists, the Actualists, the Pre-Born Bag of Chipists, the Expos, and the Typing Wild Speechists. I remember white roaches, making myself puke, digging through trash for empty cartons to fill with hydrant sprinkler water, letting myself be bit by a toothless dog at age three as a Windy City initiation rite, and hearing JB read about putting socks down his pants to make it look like he “had more”. I also recall recently not keeping the sentence “I even learned to let myself read the writings of people I was told I should read if I really knew what was good for me”, though I still had to leave San Francisco to really start appreciating Spicer and Duncan. I remember “We work too hard./ We’re too tired/ To fall in love./ Therefore we must/ Overthrow the government.”  I remember Chewbacca and Rimbaud as negative images of one another because they are right the fuck in front of me all the time. I remember “A deck of straights/ will get you in trouble/ when drones repent for being fruitful,” and “if they’re so smart how come they’re so dead,” and Stephen writing me a letter to tell me I needed enemies. I remember hosting an open mic at which a fellow read a poem from the point of view of Jesus’ gay lover in which the lover said he didn’t go to The Last Supper because he didn’t do business dinners. I vaguely remember “BKS walks into a Big Bird”, sort of remember San Francisco Bay filled with clipper ships on turquoise clay water studded with diamonds, and Carl Rakosi at 95 publicly telling a student “cynicism is useful – it keeps you from being tricked!”. I remember being forcefully commanded to smell a flower by a Bene Gesserit prose writer who wrote occasional poems that said things like “In the mind/ you can win. /In the mind.” I remember having to go to the library in order to plagiarize, hearing the words “as you can see he is no longer there” while watching my brother stare at the face of our hours-gone stepfather, and holding the door whenever I could. I remember your father. I remember the dream from the other night in which I passed out drunk at the podium during a reading for two hours, woke up, and finished the reading. I remember one person in the audience telling me afterwards that the one poem I slurred through a broken version of was actually pretty interesting. I remember another fellow at a different open mic I hosted showing up in black leather pants and black angel wings attached to rings around his shoulders, no shirt, very buff and tall, doing an anti-Giuliani rant in Japanese and broken English. I remember “How do you begin? I think of the most embarrassing thing I can,” and “I do know English because I am able to tell others/ that I am not who they think I am,” and “He had a family” “but he’d” “fought families” “He had a family” “he’d been/ made to” “fight families” “How can we” “compete” “with that?” “Pierced/ their physical” “centers” “pierced” “Is that” “the only” “reality?” I remember using Progress as a structural study guide while working on a poem about a hotel and not giving a shit that I’d never be able to adequately explain what I was doing. I remember feeling Emily Dickinson being in my mind for the first time. I remember another open mic reader asking to jump the line to read because his cab was parked outside and he was still on duty. I remember being teased by French kids for copying endless strings of typed 1s and 0s from Richard O’Russa’s Elastic Latitudes in order to produce a trance-like empty state to write from, and doing that last bit twelve times. I dismember being handed a pamphlet on talking to God by a guy who dug a reading I gave in Virginia, or claimed to. I resemble Brezhnev when I put my coat on according to the handwriting on the sales tag. I remumble “Haiku: Don’t look at my face./ No change, just large bills./ One wrong move will be your last.” I need a lot of money, for myself and to give away. I clearly remember forms available for anyone to use and that degree of kindness as possibility within the frame. I remember thinking it’s always a good time for poetry, knowing it despite everything, and thinking it in the future, the future’s future, and the horsehead nebula.

Originally Published: December 7th, 2009

The son of poets Alice Notley and the late Ted Berrigan and stepson of poet Douglas Oliver, Anselm Berrigan earned a BA from SUNY Buffalo and an MFA from Brooklyn College. His collections of poetry include Integrity & Dramatic Life (1999), Zero Star Hotel (2002), Some Notes on My Programming...

  1. December 7, 2009
     John Oliver Simon

    I remember Tomás Harris showing up for the reading at the Centro de España in Valdivia, Chile, absolutely shitfaced, and musing "improvisemos un poema... let's improvise a poem," and focusing, sort of, one the photograph of the Queen of Spain which hung over the mantel in honor, rhyming "sufría o gozía la reina Sofía... Queen Sophie, did she suffer or enjoy it?" and the rather large woman who was our host on behalf of the long-distant government of Spain standing up and saying never had she been so insulted and in her own house, they call them poets but they don't even have common courtesy.

  2. December 9, 2009
     Steven Fama

    Thanks for this Anselm B.\r

    "I remember hosting an open mic at which a fellow read a poem from the point of view of Jesus’ gay lover in which the lover said he didn’t go to The Last Supper because he didn’t do business dinners."\r

    I'd pay good money to hear that poem!