The Sonnets

Ted Berrigan, Author, Alice Notley, Editor, Alice Notley, Introduction by Penguin Books $18 (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-058927-6
The sonnet, in Berrigan's hands (and scissors), was as much an arbitrary frame for experience as a traditional form. In her introduction and notes to this fifth and definitive printing of her late first husband's 1963 collage masterpiece, poet Alice Notley makes a persuasive case for the philosophical and art-historical grounding of these poems. On now greatly facilitated rereading, however, they remain first and foremost wonderful poetry. Berrigan's ""sonnets"" (conventional almost exclusively in their line count) were put together using a plethora of now-famous techniques: frame-breaking jump cuts, lines and phrases transposed from poem to poem and line to line, sound-based translations from French (and English), and simply beautiful writing. These methods, some lifted from John Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath, are put in the service of plotlines both poignant and surly, and details hilarious and sensuous: ""I think I was thinking when I was/ ahead I'd be somewhere like Perry street erudite/ dazzling slim and badly loved/ contemplating my new book of poems/ to be printed in simple type on old brown paper/ feminine marvelous and tough."" The sonnet's customary pithy closing couplet is here converted into the detached, calm endings of modern poems and short stories. And the volta, or the rhetorical turn that characterizes Shakespeare's sonnets, isn't fixed at the beginning of the ninth line, as befits a poetry influenced (as Notley notes) by Whitehead's theory of time. This edition includes seven previously uncollected sonnets; these, with Notley's commentary, make this an indispensable addition to any poetry library. One hopes it will alert publishers to the need for a Collected Berrigan, and introduce new readers to a midcentury classic. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-1-101-17617-7
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-1-101-17725-9
Prebound-Glued - 94 pages - 978-1-4177-0427-9
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