Poetry News

Speaking Necrotics: A Review of Anselm Berrigan & Jonathan Allen's Loading

By Harriet Staff


At Coldfront, Virginia Konchan reviews Loading (Brooklyn Arts Press 2013), Anselm Berrigan's collaborative book with artist Jonathan Allen. "Anselm Berrigan treats postmodern ennui and the poets’ perennial search for a deictic axis to anchor words in space and time; he also uses them as a poetic compass to express the need, however phantasmal, for direction and futurity," she writes. On the images:

The images also gesture toward the need to establish not just nominally, but in the physical universe, order and form: canvases of textural fabrics and buildings contain elements of erasure and semaphores (arrows), suggesting the need for a cognitive (bound by a grid other than the poetic line, and a form other than the page) as well as physical mapping of space. The word, Culler suggests, is a gift—his painting “For a word” reads like a request for alms (meaning), and “Dodging Folding Volumes” speaks to the modernist difficulties inherent to linguistic representation (authority, intention, closure), framed by Berrigan as “speaking necrotics.”

The only somewhat realistic image in the book resembles Jorges Luis Borges’s infinite library, which is also the cover image of the book: a room surrounded not by speakers or painting but by winding walls full of texts. It comes across as a visual meme for the future, when as post-literate subjects living in the throes of image culture, we return, rather than capitulate, to the bounded sarcophagi of logos, government, law. Environmentalist rhetoric is here coupled with potshots at the bastions of the European “avant-garde” (“Go Frack Yourself With Your Urinal”), poems that write the self not as persona but alienated subject, free to play, if textually, with not just potential but actual selves, an experiment that results in a collusion of metaphors: “Anselm// Is a niche poetess behind a window/ Named nurture, doing the voice, saying// How at every pre-environment outset:/ Donkey donkey donkey donkey donkey . . .”

Read the full review at Coldfront.

Originally Published: February 10th, 2014