Indie Lit Classic: Creeley and Berrigan

25 Sep

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Last week, Vouched Books contributor Tyler Gobble wrote a fine post under the theretofore unused subject heading “Indie Lit Classic.” While I’m a fan of all three books he featured, the post made me question the use of the term “classic.” Can a book that’s six months old, one year old, or even three years old be considered a classic? I don’t necessarily have an answer to that question, but it’s something I’ve been thinking bout.

Also, in writing this post, I think it’s important for me to admit that I don’t really know what the modifier “indie lit” means; my understanding of the phrase, probably, is even less clear than my understanding of what constitutes a “classic.”

So, with these caveats in mind, I’d like to offer up two poems for the “Indie Lit Classic” pantheon.

My first suggestion is Robert Creeley’s rendition of “The Plan is the Body” from May 18, 1973 at Goddard College. I especially like the segment when he loses his way midway through the poem and says: “I didn’t make these arrangements, I’m simply here”; and, of course, the whole “Up against the wall, motherfucker!” bit. It’s a top-notch poem, but also a wonderful example of Creeley’s playfulness.

To my mind, though, the gold standard for all poetry recordings is Ted Berrigan’s July 25, 1982, tear-inducing recitation at the Naropa Institute of his tear-inducing poem “Red Shift.” I’ll let the recording speak for itself, as the kids say; but, I would like to note that the poem’s momentum really picks up about halfway through, ending in an emotional, poetic, and performative climax.

If you have any other suggestions for poetry recordings that you think are worthy of the “Indie Lit Classic” moniker, please post them in the comments section below.

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