The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan

The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan

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Following the highly acclaimed Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, poets Alice Notley, Anselm Berrigan, and Edmund Berrigan have collaborated again on this new selection of poems by one of the most influential and admired poets of his generation. Reflecting a new editorial approach, this volume demonstrates the breadth of Ted Berrigan’s poetic accomplishments by presenting his most celebrated, interesting, and important work. This major second-wave New York School poet is often identified with his early poems, especially The Sonnets, but this selection encompasses his full poetic output, including the later sequences Easter Monday and A Certain Slant of Sunlight, as well as many of his uncollected poems. The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan provides a new perspective for those already familiar with his remarkable wit and invention, and introduces new readers to what John Ashbery called the “crazy energy” of this iconoclastic, funny, brilliant, and highly innovative writer.

Praise for The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan:

“This is a great, great book for all seasons of the mind and heart.”—Robert Creeley

“Thanks to this invaluable Collected Poems, one can hear, as never before, Ted Berrigan dreaming his dream.”—The Nation

“The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan is not only one of the most strikingly attractive books recently published, but is also a major work of 20th-century poetry. . . . It is a book that will darken with the grease of my hands. There is no better way to praise it than by saying, ‘If you enjoy poetry, you should have it.’” —Bloomsbury Review

“It’s a must-have, a poetic knockout.”—Time Out New York

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520266841
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 02/07/2011
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Ted Berrigan (1934–1983) was the author of more than 20 books, including Bean Spasms, with Ron Padgett and Joe Brainard; Red Wagon; and A Certain Slant of Sunlight. Alice Notley’s numerous collections include In the Pines and Grave of Light, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Anselm Berrigan is the author of Free Cell and many other works. Poet and songwriter Edmund Berrigan is the author of Disarming Matter and, most recently, Glad Stone Children.

Read an Excerpt

The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan

By Alice Notley, Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94814-3


    People of the Future

    People of the future
    while you are reading these poems, remember
    you didn't write them,
    I did.

    to David Bearden

    Don't call me "Berrigan"
    Or "Edmund"
    If ever you touch me
    Rivers of annoyance undermine the arrangements

    If you would own me
    The broken eggshell of morning
    A proper application
    Of stately rhythms
    Accessible to adepts
    May pierce this piercing wind
    Penetrate this light
    To hide my shadow

    But the recoil
    Not death but to mount the throne
    Mountains of twine and
    Entangling moments

    Which is why I send you my signal
    That is why I give you this six-gun and call you "Steve"
    Have you taken the measure of the wind?
    Can hands touch, and
    Must we dispose of "the others"?

    String of Pearls

    Lester Young! why are you playing that clarinet
    you know you are Horn in my head? the middle page is
    missing god damn it now how will I ever understand Nature
    And New Painting? doo doot doo Where is Dick Gallup
    his room is horrible it has books in it and paint peeling
    a 1934 icebox living on the fifth floor it's

    yes and it's ridiculous to be sitting here
    in New York City 28 years old wife sleeping and
    Lester playing the wrong sound in 1936 in Kansas City (of
    all places) sounding like Benny Goodman (of all people) but
    a good sound, not a surprise, a voice, & where was Billie, he
    hadn't met her yet, I guess Gallup wasn't born yet neither was
    my wife Just me & that icebox I hadn't read horn by John
    Clellon Holmes yet, either

    What is rhythm I wonder? Which was George & which Ira
    Gershwin? Why
    don't I do more? wanting only to be walking in the New
    York Autumn
    warm from coffee I still can feel gurgling under my ribs
    climbing the steps of the only major statement in New York City
    (Louis Sullivan) thinking the poem I am going to write seeing
    the fountains come on wishing I were he

    Words for Love
    for Sandy

    Winter crisp and the brittleness of snow
    as like make me tired as not. I go my
    myriad ways blundering, bombastic, dragged
    by a self that can never be still, pushed
    by my surging blood, my reasoning mind.

    I am in love with poetry. Every way I turn
    this, my weakness, smites me. A glass
    of chocolate milk, head of lettuce, darkness
    of clouds at one o'clock obsess me.
    I weep for all of these or laugh.

    By day I sleep, an obscurantist, lost
    in dreams of lists, compiled by my self
    for reassurance. Jackson Pollock René
    Rilke Benedict Arnold I watch
    my psyche, smile, dream wet dreams, and sigh.

    At night, awake, high on poems, or pills
    or simple awe that loveliness exists, my lists
    flow differently. Of words bright red
    and black, and blue. Bosky. Oubliette. Dissevered.
    And O, alas

    Time disturbs me. Always minute detail
    fills me up. It is 12:10 in New York. In Houston
    it is 2 p.m. It is time to steal books. It's
    time to go mad. It is the day of the apocalypse
    the year of parrot fever! What am I saying?

    Only this. My poems do contain
    wilde beestes. I write for my Lady
    of the Lake. My god is immense, and lonely
    but uncowed. I trust my sanity, and I am proud. If
    I sometimes grow weary, and seem still, nevertheless

    my heart still loves, will break.

    For You
    for James Schuyler

    New York's lovely weather hurts my forehead
    here where clean snow is sitting, wetly
    round my ears, as hand-in-glove and
    head-to-head with Joe, I go reeling
    up First Avenue to Klein's. Christmas
    is sexy there. We feel soft sweaters
    and plump rumpled skirts we'd like to try.
    It was gloomy being broke today, and baffled
    in love: Love, why do you always take my heart away?
    But then the soft snow came sweetly falling down
    and head in the clouds, feet soaked in mush
    I rushed hatless into the white and shining air,
    glad to find release in heaven's care.

    Personal Poem #2

    I wake up 11:30 back aching from soft bed Pat
    gone to work Ron to class (I never heard a sound)
    it's my birthday. 27. I put on birthday
    pants birthday shirt go to Adam's buy a Pepsi for
    breakfast come home drink it take a pill

    I'm high!
    I do three Greek lessons to make
    up for cutting class. I read birthday book
    (from Joe) on Juan Gris real name: José
    Vittoriano Gonzalez stop in the middle read
    all my poems gloat a little over new ballad
    quickly skip old sonnets imitations of Shakespeare.
    Back to books. I read poems by Auden Spenser Stevens
    Pound and Frank O'Hara. I hate books.
    I wonder
    if Jan or Helen or Babe ever think about me. I
    wonder if David Bearden still dislikes me. I wonder
    if people talk about me secretly. I wonder if
    I'm too old. I wonder if I'm fooling myself
    about pills. I wonder what's in the icebox.
    I wonder if Ron or Pat bought any toilet paper
    this morning

    Personal Poem #9

    It's 8:54 a.m. in Brooklyn it's the 26th of July
    and it's probably 8:54 in Manhattan but I'm
    in Brooklyn I'm eating English muffins and drinking
    Pepsi and I'm thinking of how Brooklyn is New
    York City too how odd I usually think of it
    as something all its own like Bellows Falls like
    Little Chute like Uijongbu
    I never thought
    on the Williamsburg Bridge I'd come so much to Brooklyn
    just to see lawyers and cops who don't even carry guns
    taking my wife away and bringing her back
    and I never thought Dick would be back at Gude's
    beard shaved off long hair cut and Carol reading
    his books when we were playing cribbage and watching
    the sun come up over the Navy Yard across
    the river
    I think I was thinking
    when I was ahead I'd be somewhere like Perry street
    erudite dazzling slim and badly-loved
    contemplating my new book of poetry
    to be printed in simple type on old brown paper
    feminine marvelous and tough




    His piercing pince-nez. Some dim frieze
    Hands point to a dim frieze, in the dark night.
    In the book of his music the corners have straightened:
    Which owe their presence to our sleeping hands.
    The ox-blood from the hands which play
    For fire for warmth for hands for growth
    Is there room in the room that you room in?
    Upon his structured tomb:
    Still they mean something. For the dance
    And the architecture.
    Weave among incidents
    May be portentous to him
    We are the sleeping fragments of his sky,
    Wind giving presence to fragments.


    Dear Margie, hello. It is 5:15 a.m.
    dear Berrigan. He died
    Back to books. I read
    It's 8:30 p.m. in New York and I've been running around all day
    old come-all-ye's streel into the streets. Yes, it is now,
    How Much Longer Shall I Be Able To Inhabit The Divine
    and the day is bright gray turning green
    feminine marvelous and tough
    watching the sun come up over the Navy Yard
    to write scotch-tape body in a notebook
    had 17 and ½ milligrams
    Dear Margie, hello. It is 5:15 a.m.
    fucked til 7 now she's late to work and I'm
    18 so why are my hands shaking I should know better


    Stronger than alcohol, more great than song,
    deep in whose reeds great elephants decay;
    I, an island, sail, and my shores toss
    on a fragrant evening, fraught with sadness
    bristling hate.
    It's true, I weep too much. Dawns break
    slow kisses on the eyelids of the sea,
    what other men sometimes have thought they've seen.
    And since then I've been bathing in the poem
    lifting her shadowy flowers up for me,
    and hurled by hurricanes to a birdless place
    the waving flags, nor pass by prison ships
    O let me burst, and I be lost at sea!
    and fall on my knees then, womanly.

    Poem in the Traditional Manner

    Whenever Richard Gallup is dissevered,
    Fathers and teachers, and daemons down under the sea,
    Audenesque Epithalamiums! She
    Sends her driver home and she stays with me.

    Match-Game etcetera! Bootleggers
    Barrel-assing chevrolets grow bold. I summon
    To myself sad silent thoughts,
    Opulent, sinister, and cold.

    Shall it be male or female in the tub?
    And grawk go under, and grackle disappear,
    And high upon the Brooklyn Bridge alone,
    An ugly ogre masturbates by ear:

    Of my darling, my darling, my pipe and my slippers,
    Something there is is benzedrine in bed:
    And so, so Asiatic, Richard Gallup
    Goes home, and gets his gat, and plugs his dad.

    From a Secret Journal

    My babies parade waving their innocent flags
    an unpublished philosopher, a man who must
    column after column down colonnade of rust
    in my paintings, for they are present
    I am wary of the mulctings of the pink promenade,
    went in the other direction to Tulsa,
    glistering, bristling, cozening whatever disguises
    S of Christmas John Wayne will clown with
    Dreams, aspirations of presence! Innocence gleaned,
    annealed! The world in its mysteries are explained,
    and the struggles of babies congeal. A hard core is formed.
    "I wanted to be a cowboy." Doughboy will do.
    Romance of it all was overwhelming
    daylight of itself dissolving and of course it rained.

    Penn Station

    On the green a white boy goes
    And he walks. Three ciphers and a faint fakir
    No One Two Three Four Today
    I thought about all those radio waves
    Winds flip down the dark path of breath
    Passage the treasure Gomangani I
    Forget bring the green boy white ways
    And the wind goes there
    Keats was a baiter of bears
    Who died of lust (You lie! You lie!)
    As so we all must in the green jungle
    Under a sky of burnt umber we bumble to
    The mien florist's to buy green nosegays
    For the fey Saint's parade Today
    We may read about all those radio waves


    In Joe Brainard's collage its white arrow
    He is not in it, the hungry dead doctor.
    Of Marilyn Monroe, her white teeth white I
    am truly horribly upset because Marilyn
    and ate King Korn popcorn," he wrote in his
    of glass in Joe Brainard's collage
    Doctor, but they say "I LOVE YOU"
    and the sonnet is not dead.
    takes the eyes away from the gray words,
    Diary. The black heart beside the fifteen pieces
    Monroe died, so I went to a matinee B-movie
    washed by Joe's throbbing hands. "Today
    What is in it is sixteen ripped pictures
    does not point to William Carlos Williams.


    On the 15th day of November in the year of the motorcar
    Between Oologah and Pawnee
    A hand is writing these lines
    In a roomful of smoky man names burnished dull black
    Southwest, lost doubloons rest, no comforts drift
    On dream smoke down the sooted fog ravine
    In a terrible Ozark storm the Tundra vine
    Blood ran like muddy inspiration: Walks he in around anyway
    The slight film has gone to gray-green children
    And seeming wide night. Now night
    Is a big drink of waterbugs Then were we so fragile
    Honey scorched our lips
    On the 15th day of November in the year of the motorcar
    Between Oologah and Pawnee


    to gentle, pleasant strains
    just homely enough
    to be beautiful
    in the dark neighborhoods of my own sad youth
    i fall in love. once
    seven thousand feet over one green schoolboy summer
    i dug two hundred graves,
    laughing, "Put away your books! Who shall speak of us
    when we are gone? Let them wear scarves
    in the once a day snow, crying in the kitchen
    of my heart!" O my love, I will weep a less bitter truth,
    till other times, making a minor repair,
    a breath of cool rain in those streets
    clinging together with slightly detached air.


    Into the closed air of the slow
    Now she guards her chalice in a temple of fear
    Each tree stands alone in stillness
    to gentle, pleasant strains
    Dear Marge, hello. It is 5:15 a.m.
    Andy Butt was drunk in the Parthenon
    Harum-scarum haze on the Pollock streets
    This excitement to be all of night, Henry!
    Ah, Bernie, to think of you alone, suffering
    It is such a good thing to be in love with you
    On the green a white boy goes
    He's braver than I, brother
    Many things are current, and of these the least are
    not always children
    On the 15th day of November in the year of the motorcar


    And then one morning to waken perfect-faced
    To the big promise of emptiness
    In a terrible Ozark storm
    Pleasing John Greenleaf Whittier!
    Speckled marble bangs against his soiled green feet
    And each sleeping son is broke-backed and dumb
    In fever and sleep processional
    Voyages harass the graver
    And grope underneath the most serious labor
    Darius feared the boats. Meanwhile
    John Greenleaf Whittier was writing. Meanwhile
    Grandma thought wistfully of international sock fame
    Down the John G. Whittier Railroad Road
    In the morning sea mouth


    It is night. You are asleep. And beautiful tears
    Have blossomed in my eyes. Guillaume Apollinaire is dead.
    The big green day today is singing to itself
    A vast orange library of dreams, dreams
    Dressed in newspaper, wan as pale thighs
    Making vast apple strides towards "The Poems."
    "The Poems" is not a dream. It is night. You
    Are asleep. Vast orange libraries of dreams
    Stir inside "The Poems." On the dirt-covered ground
    Crystal tears drench the ground. Vast orange dreams
    Are unclenched. It is night. Songs have blossomed
    In the pale crystal library of tears. You
    Are asleep. A lovely light is singing to itself,
    In "The Poems," in my eyes, in the line, "Guillaume
    Apollinaire is dead."


    Sleep half sleep half silence and with reasons
    For you I starred in the movie
    Made on the site
    Of Benedict Arnold's triumph, Ticonderoga, and
    I shall increase from this
    As I am a cowboy and you imaginary
    Ripeness begins corrupting every tree
    Each strong morning A man signs a shovel
    And so he digs It hurts and so
    We get our feet wet in air we love our lineage
    Ourselves Music, salve, pills, kleenex, lunch
    And the promise never to truckle A man
    Breaks his arm and so he sleeps he digs
    In sleep half silence and with reason


    banging around in a cigarette she isn't "in love"
    my dream a drink with Ira Hayes we discuss the code of
    the west
    my hands make love to my body when my arms are around you
    you never tell me your name
    and I am forced to write "belly" when I mean "love"
    Au revoir, scene!
    I waken, read, write long letters and
    wander restlessly when leaves are blowing
    my dream a crumpled horn
    in advance of the broken arm
    she murmurs of signs to her fingers
    weeps in the morning to waken so shackled with love
    Not me. I like to beat people up.
    My dream a white tree


    Harum-scarum haze on the Pollock streets
    The fleet drifts in on an angry tidal wave
    Drifts of Johann Strauss
    The withering weather of
    Of polytonic breezes gathering in the gathering winds
    Of a plush palace shimmering velvet red
    In the trembling afternoon
    A dark trance
    The cherrywood romances of rainy cobblestones
    Mysterious Billy Smith a fantastic trigger
    Melodic signs of Arabic adventure
    A boy first sought in Tucson Arizona
    Or on the vast salt deserts of America
    Where Snow White sleeps among the silent dwarfs


Excerpted from The Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan by Alice Notley, Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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