Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Certain Slant of Sunlight

I just reread the truly special Ted Berrigan collection of poems, A Certain Slant of Sunlight. I hadn't read these in over a decade, and I experienced them as wondrously fresh today. It is one of my favorite book of poems. Although there are many wry  moments, and some mildly and humorously cranky, it's a book of poems that really carries the air and pleasure of sunlight hitting in a particular way. The poems all have Berrigan's unique conversational lyricism and almost all of them contain little surprises, unexpected turns of phrase. I remember once reading or hearing that art or poetry is supposed to make the familiar strange. I think Ted Berrigan's poems are so comforting and elevating because the both familiar and strange at the same time.

Famously these poems were all written on blank postcards, which gives them all a similar length, but within this space the poet goes in so many directions, and the poetry is more expansive than it is contained.

Here's one of many, many good ones:


 for Dick Jerome

How terrible a life is
And you're crazy all the time
Because the words don't fit
The heart isn't breakable
And it has a lot of dirt on it
The white stuff doesn't clean it & it can't
       be written on
Black doesn't go anywhere
Except away & there isn't any
Just a body very wet & chemistry
which can explode like salt & snow
& does so, often.

And some random favorite lines:

"never be born, never be died."

"... O lovely line that doesn't give an
    inch, but gives."

".... I had the unmistakable signature
of a mean spirit."

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