Introductions for Anselm Berrigan & David Trinidad

For those of you who celebrated Rosh Hashanah last night or had to watch baseball, here are my introductions for Anselm and David.

Anselm Berrigan’s newest book, Notes from Irrelevance, was just published by Wave Books. Free Cell and To Hell With Sleep were published in 2009. And Have a Good One was published in 2008. I’m tempted to say that since leaving the job of Artistic Director for the Project, he has become prolific (probably just a wish for my own post-AD life). In fact, Anselm is still prolific, while being a teacher, editor and parent. That’s all the biographical data I’m going to recite, and quickly segue into how Anselm does his own (auto)biography, particularly in Notes From Irrelevance. My intro comments come as a result of the convergence of my reading his book along with Ted Greenwald’s Clearview/Lie and David Meltzer’s When I Was a Poet, all present various ways to construe lived experience or narratives of the

self via the poem. When we think of sharing a memory or a story, often it is told through a series of images, but in Notes From Irrelevance there is, in the poets own estimation, a “willful desire for image dissolution.” With this in mind, I read on and was gripped by the idea of – not the narrator trying to come to grips with himself- but how he invites others come to grips with him – through any and all means. Anselm is generous in his ability to be “influenced, potentially, by anything” and his ideal listener won’t wonder what it’s all about. It’s about that! Or, said in another way that reflects what Philip Whalen’s work does so beautifully, it’s the transformation of consciousness into poetry. Sometimes we’ll get a craved for autobiographical detail, familiar and digestible, but it’s placed in a tangle – the poem thinking aloud, in reverse psychology, clauses, sub-clauses and odd sound combinations. The self as an artifact of language – interior life as sonic activity – the self as a structure that can narrow or expand. He’s one of the most rigorous disruptors of patterns that usually represent some kind of narrowing. It’s always a pleasure to have Anselm Berrigan at The Poetry Project.

David Trinidad’s most recent book, Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems, has just been published by Turtle Point Press. His other books include The Late Show (2007), By Myself (with D.A. Powell, 2009), and Plasticville (2000), all published by Turtle Point. He is also the editor of A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011), which we had a great reading for last Spring. Trinidad teaches poetry at Columbia College Chicago, where he co-edits the journal Court Green.

First, I want to say that Dear Prudence is a brilliantly edited volume. The poems aren’t sub-divided by book, which gave me as a reader the feeling that I was at a party with old friends having new conversations and new intimacies and everyone agrees that specters of the past should be given the space to haunt us, to complicate our sense of peace. This is not a book to ever replace individual Trinidad volumes, not the least of which is its inclusion of 40 new poems. I think one of the delights of reading David’s work is how he can reveal something eyebrow-raising in the most graceful manner. I, as his reader, inevitably have to admit that his revelation is part of my experience, no longer a secret, no longer subject to the structure of shame. While I’ve never had the opportunity to even consider stealing Sylvia Plath’s baby hair, I am among those whose childhood home has another family living in it, and I have searched the address on Google Maps as David does in “9773 Comanche Ave.” Despite modern technologies drive to condense time, arrest the ephemeral, there are no humans to be seen when you zoom in on those windows though his impulse is to look for them. Of this deep sense of attachment to things past, he says, “The hope, I suppose, is that the poem will transform my attachment into something tangible, or will make real that enigma.” Welcome David Trinidad back to the Project.

– Stacy Szymaszek