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Part of the book series: Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics ((MPCC))

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Following the consideration of The Sonnets as the generator of Ted Berrigan as cult poet, this chapter tracks the campaign of his mythos across various scenes of the author’s myth-making, through the visceral performance of the self “at court” by way of Berrigan’s burlesquing of another heroic iteration of the poet: the troubadour. I argue that the traditional supplementary texts in the troubadour tradition, vida and razo, are a fundamental part of Berrigan’s work, both graphically and in an oral tradition. The chapter then looks at Berrigan’s mythologising by others and how the processes and products of this relay uncannily follows in form, caricature, and function Berrigan’s own style of mythopoiesis. This extends to a consideration of the fetish operation of the literary relic and the dubious charms of the counterfeiter.

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  1. 1.

    Judith Pascoe writes that “While Byron was rumbling around [continental Europe] in a replica carriage, he wrote most of his best poems … In July 1818, Byron began ‘virtually at the same time and together’ Don Juan and his Memoirs, … linking these two undertakings to Byron’s ‘hawklike’ following of Napoleon’s fortunes in exile … Byron had accumulated a Napoleonic library of books and journal articles, many of which reported that the emperor had begun his memoirs. Emulating Napoleon’s example as an autobiographer, Byron ‘began his own two-pronged assault on posterity’” (103).

  2. 2.

    As Hejinian wrote in 1978, “we [are] obsessed with our own lives, which lives being now language, the emphasis has moved. The emphasis is persistently centric, so that where once one sought a vocabulary for ideas, now one seeks ideas for vocabularies” (L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 29).

  3. 3.

    See Elizabeth Poe, especially pp. 17 and 35.

  4. 4.

    Sprezzatura: “a form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance.” Harry Berger Jr. p. 297.

  5. 5.

    We might also not be surprised to find that the practices of irony and parody are there at the historical origins of the troubadour songs. Perhaps like any cultural form, the amorous song, as a performance of sincerity, is virally informed with its potential parody.

  6. 6.

    Berrigan also uses the opportunity to smite the “once avant-garde now Grade/School/Poetry Project” in a more general combustion of spleen.

  7. 7.

    Nick Selby observes that Berrigan’s New York “literary scene” is “not dissimilar … in its in-jokes, gossipy sexuality and promiscuous inter-personal relations to that of the Elizabethan court in which the English sonnet sequence flourished” (84–5).

  8. 8.

    Durand writes: “The ethos of poetry centered around the Project—the everyday, the humorous, the high and low-combined with the strong sense of community, led to a certain culmination in small publishing: the mimeographed in-house lampoon Caveman” (76). Berrigan and Kraut were also contributors to other magazines, appearing in Mag 8, The World 35, The World 39, and the Poetry Project Newsletter.

  9. 9.

    We should also note Berrigan’s invocation of John Keats and Fanny Brawne as he addresses Rochelle as “my brightest star.”

  10. 10., accessed 21/03/21.

  11. 11.

    Eileen Myles interview with Paul Nelson.

  12. 12.

    The publisher’s note reads “Ted Berrigan, a collaboration between Bill Berkson and George Schneeman … is an homage to the poet and painter’s mutual friend produced as a one off unique book in real-time at George’s studio on St. Marks Place on March 5, 2006. The book is comprised of eight spreads where image and text fuse, bleed off the page and cross the gutter…Handsewn, the dimensions are true to the original. Edition limited to 500 copies.”

  13. 13.

    p. 23., Catalogue for

  14. 14.

    As an occasional purveyor of second-hand books, Berrigan himself worked the cache of the signature, the increased cash value of the signed copy. It has been suggested that he often sought signatures for this very pragmatic purpose.

  15. 15.

    Reported by Stephen Rodefer. “Strange to Be Gone in a Minute.” Waldman 145.

  16. 16.

    ‘AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN CAGE by Ted Berrigan’, accessed 10/06/2011.

  17. 17.

    See E. deKooning (97) and Brainard (167) in Berkson and LeSueur Homage to Frank O’Hara.

  18. 18.

    “OK. I’ll buy that” is a definitional “flatfooted” dance-move for Berrigan. It presents itself as allied with but in contradistinction to O’Hara’s “Grace…” with its own “awkward grace.” This is the energetic signature.

  19. 19.

    Notley, Alice. “Notes”: “One cannot help but have the feeling he is counting down to his final moments.” CP 717.

  20. 20.

    See Judith Pascoe. The Hummingbird Cabinet: A Rare and Curious History of Romantic Collectors. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2006. pp. 85–109.

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Hose, D. (2022). Phantasmatic Transmissions: Ted Berrigan’s Vida and Razo. In: The Pursuit of Myth in the Poetry of Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan and John Forbes. Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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