Friday, March 27, 2015

Free Cell

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Anselm Berrigan read from a wonderful long poem, "Have a Good One", at the Poetry Project. Since then, at so many random regular moments, when I hear myself saying "have a good one" to someone, I hear echos of that poem. So even though it took me over five years to finally sit down and read it, I feel like it's been a part of my quotidian life all this time, in a way that I thoroughly enjoy.

Free Cell contains three poems: "Have a Good One"; "Let Us Sample Protection Together"; and "To Hell With Sleep". The first and third poems are long, and the central poem is a sturdy two pages.

The book works marvelously as whole. I was mesmerized throughout "Have a Good One", drawn in and out through the writer's perceptions, images, declarative statements, and play with language. Humor woven through the whole, wry and quiet and smart.

Like I said, the phrase that the poem hinges on is such a familiar and regular utterance. Seeing it beginning each section, had a strange effect, as if I were walking through the poem and greeting each section as it began. This poem, and "To Hell with Sleep" are beautifully arranged on the page in non-traditional forms. My favorite sequences were those that began to the right and slanted down left. This did two things: something about it was vaguely trance-engaging, as the downward motion seemed accentuated; and something about it was jarring and disruptive, as the eye has to move counter to reading habit. The length of the poem is just perfect, the roaming quality, and the soft release at the end.

There are so many segments I want to share here, but most of my favorites are on the page in a way that I know this blog won't capture, so here's one that I particularly like and is all left justified:

Have a Good One

They went for it is not
the droid I'm looking to

for convivial disengagement
from soul. For that I've come

to your cadaver's waltz
of a special place for

lonely childhoods. I wasn't
lonely until just now, love

all around like an historical
landmark. They'll be

expansive, those original specs.
That rusted gate has to meet

its own dignitay. Get
as they say, your own.

Loneliness will merely gnaw
at our vocabulary.

The final poem, "To Hell with Sleep", has a veering, into and out of consciousness feel to it that also engages language through disruptions of expectations. Like "Have a Good One", it carries emotion and social observation within these lovely frames on the page.

The middle poem is really spectacular. I won't quote it in full, but it can be read here:

I am looking forward to reading more Berrigan poetry books!

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