Monday, March 12, 2007


Funny that you use Ted Berrigan’s Collected Poems as an example of really liking a book outside your usual “discourse radius,” to use David Antin’s term. I have exactly the opposite reaction to Berrigan. I should love his work; most of my friends do, and of course he’s writing under the sign of Frank O’Hara, who is one of my great favorites. But I find Berrigan self-indulgent, self-important, and just plain irritating, and I have no interest in Alice Notley either. Second-generation New York poetry (or is this third-gen?) strikes me as a throwback to a messy confessionalism that lacks form.

- Marjorie Perloff (

There's an interesting new journal called New Ohio Review (/nor) from Ohio University. It includes a discussion between Marjorie Perloff and David Wojahn about Robert Lowell. That's where I got this surprising quote. Perloff is always interesting, even though I often disagree with her (as in this case) and though (or perhaps because) she's heavy-handed in her pronouncements. Recently she's been making forays into modern Swedish poetry (I've helped her with some translations).

As for Berrigan, his poetry has had great influence on my own writing mainly because his sensibilities are so different from my own (though we are both O'Hara-philes). I have often used his poetry to undo my own habits. But to be honest, I don't like his later work. It does become a bit dull.

I should love Duncan. Most of my friends do. But I can't get into it.


Blogger Kasey Mohammad said...

That part of the interview stuck with me too--Marjorie's inability to appreciate Notley, even more than Berrigan (even though I love him immensely too), epitomizes for me the elements of her readerly vision that are most short-sighted.

And yet, like you, I have only so much taste for Duncan, a disinclination that I suspect comes out of a sensibility not unrelated to the one that informs Marjorie's dislike for Notley....

9:45 AM  
Blogger François Luong said...

I'm not sure why you don't like Duncan. Sure, his Romanticism might be a bit off-putting, but his "Structure of a Rime" are quite a mind trip. (It could be said that François reads poetry because they are cheaper than drugs)

10:16 AM  

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