Ted Berrigan was born on this day in 1934, a date that is marked in The Sonnets in the echoing line "On the 15th day of November in the year of the motorcar." One of the most elegantly simple inventories of the self in the book, both entirely direct and oblique and full of the grand cadence that resonates throughout The Sonnets, the line also references Gertrude Stein's non-portrait of T.S. Eliot, "A Description of the Fifteenth of November," with its seemingly schedule-obsessed archiving of this date: "On the fifteenth of November have it a year. On the fifteenth of November they returned too sweet. On the fifteenth of November also." You can listen to a recording of Stein reading the piece in 1935 here. Berrigan, of course, was a great reader of Stein, and I'm sure was unendingly humored that his date of birth had always already been inscribed into the history of American experimental writing.
In celebration of this 15th of November in 2017, which also happens to be the year of the 50th anniversary of the Grove edition of The Sonnets, here are a few poems, recordings, and images from my work on Berrigan, a true Scorpio and irreducible poet. This first audio clip is brief, taken from Berrigan's first complete reading of The Sonnets in New York City in 1978, but it's been a statement I've returned to endlessly. Reverence is twisted, but it's a great pleasure to study Ted, his friends, and the ways his presence continues to work. As Clark Coolidge told me about his relationship with Ted, "I was just pleased to know this incredible guy." In my own way, I feel the same.
Below is Berrigan's poem "Scorpio," which appears in A Feeling for Leaving (Frontward Books, 1975).
A collaborative poem by Berrigan and Alice Notley from the archives at Emory:
And more images, "which owe their presence to our sleeping hands":