The Postcard as Form, Approach, Tone, Ambience

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

John Bloomberg-Rissman refers me to the work of Ted Berrigan, A Certain Slant of Sunlight (1988).

Berrigan wrote the poems included in that volume on postcards with his own drawings. It is not clear if he sent these postcards to other people or if he only used the postcards as a way of ‘constraining’ his writing.

John quotes Alice Notley:

“The cards as a constant size and shape became for Berrigan a form, and the poems written in this form became a sequence. The form provided for a poem that could be only as long as the card’s size permitted: if the handwriting was kept very small you could wind up with a poem as long as “What a Dump, or, Easter” (31 lines including stanza breaks); however, most of the poems are shorter than that, in the eight- to twenty-line range, say. A few are very much shorter, are only a line or two lines in length, and sometimes suggestive of a postcard “message” (e.g. `SALUTATION/ “Listen, you cheap little liar . . .”‘). Is such a form a form? There isn’t much of the grid in it, to compare it with Berrigan’s The Sonnets, which is composed very much to a grid. The form isn’t a plan for the deployment of words and lines so much as an approach, an ambiance, maybe a tone.”

Here Berrigan reads: “for my sins/I live in the city of New York” [YouTube video].

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