Microreview: Anselm Berrigan, Notes from Irrelevance
September 4, 2013
Sep 4, 2013
1 Min read time
Poetry, at least since Wordsworth turned his back on the Revolution and looked toward Tintern Abbey, “makes nothing happen.” This despite its occasional outbursts of grandiloquent spleen. Decidedly irrelevant, the lyric “I” keeps going to the mall. Old news? Anselm Berrigan makes it new: “Blank is blank / is blank is blank. To be / scores and assumptions / an inked goddess did not / command, I bet against / my own aloof relations / with family, society, / labor and intellect.” Berrigan’s single-stanza, 65-page-long poem is a meditation not on the self, but on the self in its relations, its relevancies, to other people, media, solidarity, the “evil kitty,” language games, and, in the end, fellow poet Dana Ward—one half a dialogue, signed “Love, Anselm.” Throughout, however, Berrigan’s tussle is about resisting as much as connecting. His “game of resistance” manifests formally in catachresis, anacoluthon, and provocations such as “I don’t really see / the difference between / modernism and al Qaeda.” But he also puts it straight: “I am most / certainly engaged to a / dissolution of image, / even as I wield my own / anti-program in glossy / fashion. I’m a child / programmed to punish / the world.” Irrelevance, it turns out, is a fiercely held position, the development of “vicious profiles.” As a poem addressed to you as much as to anyone, these Notes from Irrelevance are in their fierceness finally, deeply relevant.
While we have you...
...we need your help. You might have noticed the absence of paywalls at Boston Review. We are committed to staying free for all our readers. Now we are going one step further to become completely ad-free. This means you will always be able to read us without roadblocks or barriers to entry. It also means that we count on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, help us keep it free for everyone by making a donation. No amount is too small. You will be helping us cultivate a public sphere that honors pluralism of thought for a diverse and discerning public.
September 04, 2013
1 Min read time