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City Lights Spotlight #02: Free Cellby Anselm Berrigan
Synopses & Reviews
The second volume of our City Lights Spotlight Poetry series, Free Cell is the latest book of poems from New York–based poet Anselm Berrigan, one of the most influential American poets under the age of forty. In a departure from his previous work, Free Cell consists of two experimental suites, “Have a Good One” and “To Hell with Sleep,” connected by a central poem.
The former director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Anselm Berrigan is the son of poets Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley. He is the poetry editor of The Brooklyn Rail and the co-editor of The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan.
"Berrigan's fourth collection, and the second volume in City Lights' new Spotlight Series, is composed of three poems or sequences. The first and longest, 'Have a Good One,' is an extended series of seemingly flippant personal and public observations ('Stop telling me/ I look tired.// I know what/ I look like.// Tell me/ how I feel'; 'The problem of free will/ is not that it does or does not/ exist, but that it's pointless') punctuated (or titled) with the phrase 'Have a Good One,' which appears at least once per page. Berrigan (Some Notes on My Programming) may have learned some of his disjunctive sprawl and spontaneity from his famous poet parents, Alice Notley and especially Ted Berrigan, but his poems have a kind of slacker cool and political awareness all his own: 'You are// what your// record says// you are,' he reminds. Next comes the book's only shortish poem, 'Let Us Sample Protection Together,' in which 'The room stares back from its things.' The book concludes with 'To Hell with Sleep,' another skittery romp through Berrigan's associative haze. While he isn't reinventing poetry, he is carrying his parents' tradition of poetry as a way of life, a community, proudly into the 21st century." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Free Cell is the latest collection of free-verse poetry from writing instructor and dedicated poet Anselm Berrigan. The words themselves revel in the freedom to assume any shape in this smoothly rolling collection of musings and insights. The natural flow of the verbal rhythm serves as the perfect counterpoint to the thought-provoking commentary in this excellent collection. ‘Frailty puckers up to present’: Frailty puckers up to present / gibberish in the agri-fab / spamways, helicopter can’t / swim, can’t junk tribal / penance for living off natty / whims so many pairs of / pants deny in fever’s dash. // The routine bites hard, ooze / a rapt factory heir teething / sway, ye olde time cleaners / spun off a granted project / of abeyance in the deep / trim that art savors, bent- / like, creaming dabbles.’” — James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review
"[Berrigan] digests and mercilessly composts an endless variety of speech, with an excellent ear for the comedy of the banal — the sounds of corporate brainstorming sessions, rich people, even the unsympathetic reader. . . When he writes 'I like moving / your careful parts about,' he must be addressing Language, and reading this poem one gets the impression Berrigan may go on moving her parts indefinitely, as he follows the ominous momentum of these poems ‘Back to the brink, as ever.’" — Julia Powers, The Brooklyn Rail
"Anselm Berrigan’s free radical poetry chops your hands off mid-line, drops the book into your lap, and caresses you with disquiet indie pop allusions and echoes of ubiquitous advertising absurdities as it cheers on that last ill-intentioned pint before the crestfallen exit from the pub on a Monday night while ambitiously and unambiguously telling you it might not be OK, but I wouldn’t know anyway." — Jason Eric Jensen, The Brake Lights
“The lines through-out are high strung wires of speech act and innovative lyric. . . . [The work] could be climbed for days, years even. Yet it isn't insurmountable. It unravels with enough common linguistic rope to be followed by a smart and curious kid. The kid has to want to make the climb and that is one of the hardest tricks to pull off with integrity intact. Anselm does his best, using varied speeds, humor, drama, flat conceptual art movements giving pause to heightened lyricism, sharp images, double speak, puns, weird juxtapositions. Yet the integrity part is an essential element. It isn't any trick at all, but an intuitive sense of felt empathy which is the biggest carrot to the untried reader.” — awdart.vox.com
"These are poems about getting by in the human universe through 'the icing of all personal/ bureaucracies,' offices of existence where small and large injustices trigger passions within us that cannibalize us down to appetizers until we can regenerate in the company of fellow travelers." —Paul Killebrew, The Poetry Project Newsletter
The second volume in the City Lights Spotlight series--experimental poems by innovative New York poet and former St. Mark's Poetry Project director.
Poetry. The second volume of our City Lights Spotlight Poetry series, FREE CELL is the latest book of poems from New York-based poet Anselm Berrigan, one of the most influential American poets under the age of forty. In a departure from his previous work, FREE CELL consists of two experimental suites, "Have a Good One" and "To Hell with Sleep," connected by a central poem.
About the Author
Anselm Berrigan (born 1972 in Chicago, Illinois) is a poet and teacher. He grew up in New York City, where he currently resides with his wife, poet Karen Weiser. From 2003 to 2007, he served as artistic director at the St. Mark's Poetry Project. He is the brother of poet and musician Edmund Berrigan, half-brother of Kate Berrigan and scientist David Berrigan, son of poets Alice Notley and the late Ted Berrigan, and stepson of the late English poet and prose writer Douglas Oliver. He has also lived in Buffalo, NY at the "Ranch" and was known lovingly as "Anton" in San Francisco, CA. He is a co-chair of the writing program at the Bard College summer MFA program and a professor at Wesleyan University. He has also taught writing at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Pratt Institute, and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa.
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