Ron Padgett talks about the letters of Ted and Sandy Berrigan

By Harriet Staff

Ted and Sandy Berrigan had a tumultuous marriage that began, inauspiciously enough, with Sandy's parents putting her in a mental hospital. Why? Because, in part, they thought only a crazy person could marry Ted. While she was under surveillance in Miami, Ted was in New York, becoming a poet. Their extraordinary letters from this time, Dear Sandy Hello, are set to be published this fall by Coffee House Press. Poet Ron Padgett co-edited the collection, and Publisher's Weekly got him on the horn to talk about it:

By free associating so much in his letters, do you think he was exploring a state of confusion?

I suspect that he was using his letters to Sandy partly to find out what he thought and how he felt. Sometimes you can't do that until you try to articulate it and, in doing so, you stumble, free associate, and try out ideas to see how they sound out loud, so to speak. When you have the privacy that letter writing allows, you're willing to let your mind go and be more open than if you were writing for the public, of course. The letters allow us to see so intimately inside the mind and heart of a poet and to see how intense he is about it all, how single-minded he was and how he devoted himself to this peculiar art of poetry. So no, I don't think he was confused. He was quite determined, actually, defiant about his position as a penniless poet in a society that had no use for such a person.

Originally Published: August 30th, 2010