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July 05, 2009


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Thank you for this timely recollection of Ted Berrigan, a gentleman with whom I spent a most enjoyable afternoon in London in June 1969. I was about to turn 21. At a bookstore on, I think, Shaftesbury Avenue known to have advanced taste in poetry and literature, I recognized Berrigan (bearded, large, loud) from readings attended in New York and introduced myself to him as a fan of his "Sonnets." He decided then and there that we would spend the rest of the day together in museums, bookstores, and pubs. The day was a sonnet, and Ted's untimely death on the 4th of July is part of my personal mythology of the day (which also includes Lionel Trilling, Lou Gehrig, James Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," Sousa marches, Gershwin's Rhapsody, a Dave Righetti no-hitter, the salt in the air at Cape Cod and Cape Ann, sunsets on Lake Cayuga) and maybe this year I will also commemorate Ted's birthday (November 15). I haven't yet read it, but I believe Tom Clark on the Vanitas blog has posted something on Ted today: here's the URL.

Thank you Terry for the swell piece, and thank you David for the link to my July 4th Ted tribute at the Vanitas blog. Our mutual friend the poet Tom Raworth has added some of his usual brilliant electricity to the comments thread there, and anybody else with memories of Ted is welcome to join in the thread.

For those who are interested, here is the activated link to the Ted post:

Ted Berrigan Tribute

Dear Tom: I had been looking through the photos in Late Returns this morning, so as to get in the right mood, so it's nice to hear from you. Great to see the Vanitas tribute as well. ---TW


Thanks, and great to hear from you.

Though it seems the timing was accidental in your case, it's a sort of happy accident that we posted synchronously about Ted. His heart and humor are missing ingredients in the poetry scene these days. Words floating around like alphabet soup spilled in outer space yes, but sweet truth and rough beauty and sublime blarney...? Vanished like the memory of the last notes echoing in the air hours after the fiddlers have packed up and gone home.


Thanks for bringing Ted Berrigan to mind again. I went to Reed College with his son David and was living on the Lower East Side in 1983, and saw Ted at some readings and parites around the neighborhood. I ran into David and his sister in New York just after he died. They were very distraught about his sudden death and their grief seemed compounded by the fact that the obituary in the Times did not mention them among his children. I hope they are doing well on this anniversary.


Dear Peter:
I don't think I knew you went to school with David Berrigan. I actually found a copy of that NY Times obit in one of Ted's books, as I was going through my Berrigan collection yesterday, and noticed the hurtful absence of any mention of his first family. Not the way he would have wanted it, I'm sure.

Great account of a momentous event. Nice work, T.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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