It is not overstating to say that Ted Berrigan (1934-1983) was the spiritual center of literary New York as part of the Second Generation of New York School poets, both through his publication of little magazines and his own books, which he often signed and numbered as fine editions, no matter that they were stapled and mimeographed. His Sonnets is a modern classic, and a book that sits on the forefront of postwar poetry alongside Howl and Life Studies. It has influenced several generations of writers since, marrying chance procedures and an almost antiquated romanticism that he managed to make new.
The mimeograph revolution found some of its fullest practitioners in Berrigan and his circle, which includes fellow poets Ron Padgett and artist Joe Brainard whom he met in Tulsa. The group is sometimes known as the Tulsa School. Later on, poet Alice Notley married Berrigan and they began an artistic and life collaboration; the couple had two sons, who have also become poets.
The Tulsa School has emerged as all the more important in the decades since Berrigan’s untimely death, as recently indicated by Berrigan’s Collected Poems from University of California Press. Berrigan’s poetics also depends greatly on collaboration, something common in the Second Generation New York School, and embodied in many of the books found in the Danowski Poetry Library.
The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library was quite strong on Berrigan items from the inception, enough that he s featured as one of ten key Author Collections in the Democratic Vistas catalog. This includes items not even included in his bibliography. (It is awfully nice to stump a bibliographer.) The archive on offer includes what appears to be the original version of this otherwise unknown book, giving a key clue to its origin that might have remained a mystery without this version.
The more unique Alice Notley and Ted Berrigan items in the Danowski Poetry Library include letters, transcripts, interviews, and manuscripts; items from the Harold Schiff archive; a series of Berrigan’s journals with extensive drawing, poetry, and collage by the author; and many handmade items, including valentines passed between the pair.
Other highlights include: Birthday Bash, a handmade book featuring Berrigan’s collaboration with Tom Clark; a typescript of original poems by Berrigan; the mini-archive of the production of Train Ride, including invaluable page proofs that indicate Berrigan’s particular use of white space and lineation; the original carbon typescript of an “oral history memoir” with a one-page preface, otherwise unpublished; a small album of photographs; plus prototypes for several books, including corrections in Berrigan’s hand.