ZERO STAR HOTEL

Anselm Berrigan, Author . Edge $14 (101p) ISBN 978-1-890311-11-7

"We stayed in the worst/ hotel in Paris together/ at one of the worst times/ in my life, that has to be/ true love." The son of the late Ted Berrigan (whose The Sonnets was recently republished) and of Alice Notley (Disobience etc.), Berrigan is also the brother of poet Edmund Berrigan (Disarming Matter), and the stepson of the British poet Douglas Oliver, the author of Penniless Politics, who died in 2000 after a battle with cancer. The long title poem is an elegy for Oliver, and it looms over this mordantly funny, loving second collection that finds, in deathbed helplessness, socio-political jibes and emotional disenfranchisement that honor Oliver's commitment to social justice, and to life. Coming in six small, rapid-fire stanzas per oversized page, arrayed two by three like playing cards, the poem links the poet's grief, trauma and statelessness, and comes up with an odd, grimly affecting empathy: "Glad I didn't have brain/ Surgery, or all my/ Relatives slaughtered/ By a guy trained in/ France to be a lefty/ Intellect while I/ Escaped to drive/ A western taxi/ Glad I left Buffalo/ And San Francisco...." The book's other two other sections collect shorter, open field lyrics from the last few years, aiming deadpan one-liners and moment-to-moment observations at an ambient set of (often named) addressees; it's a coterie aesthetic that knowingly refracts the second generation New York School of Berrigan-Padgett-Hollo, etc. through a personal mise-en-abyme, resulting in "A language poet trapped/ In a confessional poet's body" (the poem ends "I never felt so much alike"). Yet with this beautifully designed oversize book, Berrigan has fully moved into his own territory: "I denied myself the use of color/ I don't think you can call that being fascinated." (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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