My idea of a conservative poet is Marcel Duchamp. There isn’t much use for time external to the writing in my head these days, insofar as the timely timelessness thing goes, much as I can sort of be “in like” with the question, or give it some nod from the next set of collapsing structures (tonalities), one gets paid to briefly inhabit. “Doubt itself becomes a form. You divest yourself of what you know.” Right. The four week old ain’t gonna let me do this two-handedly. I rub my scratchy cheek on hers in protest, and my idea of an interesting asshole poet is Donald Judd. So I got to thinking, no, desiring to find another way to work with space in poems, which led to writing on the outskirts of 10” x 13” blank white pages in a sketchbook. Real practical. Cursive rectangles, no consistent start point, right up on the edges of the paper. A wide open impulse to say things in-what-kind-of-unit determined from the wing. Turn corners, no breaks. The poem doesn’t stop, it closes around a huge flat vacuum. A different set of decisions. They get a little smudged, but I have enough of them to be able to read some of them fully (fun to read, turning that notebook around and around, if a little hard to manage an idea of what to read when bodies are nearby explicitly to listen: “an army of imaginations”). Long form, short material, wide range of prosodic openings. They get clause driven. Futureless outside of what they are. My idea of who might be on the other side of the poems, any poems, is anyone, or Joan Mitchell. Wait a minute. I’m a little freaked out by the voice construction this space enables. Do I really want that deep a relationship with contempt (which strikes me, perhaps falsely now, as often being a by-product of indirect self-assessment gone brutally haywire)? Gosh I like it when you accuse me of things. I know I’ll eventually fuck up the gray shades of whatever’s appropriate (the irony of radical restriction!) when composing a surface of knowingness. I have too much affection for making a mess. Making shapes out of, or with, messiness, whereas I remains a character that otherwise may draw exactly from my life without being it (like the I’s I know in Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn… oddly similar books, despite appearances). Just as a little starting point, before duration overtakes depiction, speaking of time, inside the writing, and levels the field a bit. My idea of a sound poet is Robert Bresson, though that one’s a little too pitched. But alas, fuckface, it be true. June sleeps well for her age, but she’s damn loud. I had to recently put down Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School because I had to give it back to the library. Took too long to get through the part where Janie is being kept in a room and tortured. Now trying to get through this long Inquisition scene in the Melmoth book, but I don’t know. Reading is slower than living right now, which is unexpected (and astonishing, in a nothing sort of way), since the first kid’s early weeks were marked by what felt like each second of each day passing out immobile on the ground.

Originally Published: April 12th, 2011
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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...