Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHAT IS POETRY? (JUST KIDDING, I KNOW YOU KNOW) by Anselm Berrigan Kirkus Star


Interviews from the Poetry Project Newsletter (1983–2009)

edited by Anselm Berrigan

Pub Date: April 4th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-940696-39-3
Publisher: Wave Books

A striking anthology of interviews that sheds light on one of the most iconic poetry institutions in New York City.

When it first opened in 1966, the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church was a place for poets to gather, listen to the vibrant new voices making noise in the city, and, more importantly, collaborate with their peers. It opened “out of the need for a stable ongoing reading series/gathering point/community center for the overlapping circles of poets in downtown NYC.” In celebration of the Poetry Project’s 50th anniversary, Berrigan (Come in Alone, 2016, etc.) has assembled a series of interviews that were originally published in the Poetry Project newsletter. The newsletter had as a mission to instigate cross-generational conversations, featuring writers from various decades discussing contemporary issues in the writing/poetry community. The work “will reward readers who take on the experience of reading it from beginning to end”—and the reward is no small thing. Readers have the pleasure of encountering Charles North discussing “scenes,” Kenneth Koch characterizing anthologies, Alice Notley talking about the construction of narratives, Ed Sanders discussing Allen Ginsberg and the New York School, Bernadette Mayer shedding light on her vocation as a writer, Fred Moten exploring the masculinity/femininity of discourse, and Anne Waldman ranting about the joys of collaboration. This anthology provides strong historical context for a space that championed linguistic risks, welcomed diversity with open arms, and celebrated a sociopolitical agenda. Berrigan explains that the Poetry Project “wasn’t just a place to go give a reading and cross off some list of desired venues. The point was to be exposed, to expose your rawest risk-taking work to a discerning audience, one that would let you know right there whether it’s working or not, and to participate in that as communal process.”

An essential tour de force for poetry buffs.