Ted Berrigan’s Birthday

[Ted Berrigan (1934-1983)]

Ted Berrigan‘s birthday. Ted adored Allen. Alongside the late-lamented Frank O’Hara, he was the one. Ted had this embarrassingly patriotic poetic tribal conceit, and in that context Allen was “the President” of Poetry (analogous to Allen’s own gleeful imaginative “shadow cabinet” – “Vachel Lindsay Secretary of the Interior/Poe Secretary of Imagination/Pound Secty. of Economics..” (Death to Van Gogh’s Ear)

a particular poetic form (a quintessential “New York School” form) – the list poem


Ron: the tight-ass

Dick: the insignificant
Pat: the dowdy old lady
Anne: the superficial sentimentalist
Bill: the spoiled snoot..

Kerouac, of course, was famously interviewed by Berrigan (along with “William Saroyan‘s son” (sic), Aram Saroyan, and Duncan McNaughton), and famously slipped a little “speed” pill, notwithstanding the watchful and disapproving eyes of Stella – but that’s another story.

“I drink some American poison liquid air which bubbles/and smoke to have character and to lean/In. The streets look for Allen, Frank, or me, Allen/is a movie, Frank disappearing in the air…

From Ted’s “classic” poem, “Red Shift”. It is, perhaps, worth pointing out that when he wrote those lines, he was writing metaphorically, Allen had yet to become “a movie”.

The Berrigan-Ginsberg connection. Allen admired and looked down benevolently upon Ted. He saw him, (like his friend Ed Sanders), as co-worker, peer, and historically authentic, (“the last of the Beatniks”), as a clearly charismatic and influential figure in the so-called “New York School” (confrere of “the Beats”), and a beloved and familiar figure in his neighborhood (on “the Lower East Side”), an unofficial “President” himself, to that central institution, the St. Mark’s Poetry Project

It was he, after all, who had suggested Bob Rosenthal for the position as his secretary (a proposition he became immediately and eternally grateful for). It was he, later, who became the secret editor and was the presiding genius, (and, in shaping, sometimes almost co-creator), of Peter Orlovsky‘s single and singular collection, Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs.

He also remembered him, like Ed, as one of the “bright young things”, the “Young Turks”, in 1965, at the legendary Berkeley Poetry Conference.

There was also the life-time life-long relationship with Anne Waldman If Allen didn’t keep up a full day-by-day accounting of Ted and his achievements (busy lives – “Allen/is a movie”), there was always Anne (and Bob too) to keep him abreast. Ted, in those days, living on St. Mark’s Place (“(I)..verbalized myself a place/In Society. 101 St. Mark’s Place..”), with his second wife, the poet Alice Notley and their two sons, Anselm and Edmund.

Vintage Berrigan, a couple of old (black-and-white) videos have recently re-surfaced – one, from a 1977 reading with the poet, Harris Schiff (introduced by the vivacious, effervescent, Didi Susan Dubleyew, and brought to us by the incomparable Pennsound and through the graciousness of the St Mark’s Poetry Project) – and another, from approximately the same time, a collaborative reading, Anne and Ted, reading together in Ted Greenwalds 98 Greene Street Loft series, reading from (reading in its entirety!) their wonderful book-length collaborative poem “Memorial Day”)

– “I surrender!”.

[Joe Brainard & Ted Berrigan – Love Pictures (Cover of C Magazine]

Madison Morrison, Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg

[University of Oklahoma Professor Madison Morrison with Ted Berrigan and Allen Ginsberg in Norman, Oklahoma,1978]

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