Friday, April 30, 2010

“A Certain Slant of Sunlight”

Good morning, folks, & a happy Friday to you all. As promised way back in early April, here’s the second featured poem by Ted Berrigan.

While the poem posted in early April, “Personal Poem #9,” came from a relatively early point in Berrigan’s career, “A Certain Slant of Sunlight” is a late poem. The title clearly refers to Emily Dickinson’s great poem “There’s A Certain Slant of Light,” & like that poem, explores the emotions surrounding memory & loss—the way these can be triggered by a seemingly small thing—the angle of the light. However, in Berrigan’s poem, we’re completely “unstuck” in both time & space, as he moves between St Mark’s Place & Colorado in 1980 & wherever he finds himself on the day of his first communion, 1941 (Berrigan grew up in Providence, Rhode Island). Where the lyric “I” is located at any given moment becomes ambiguous—as each of our locations become uncertain & fluid when we’re flooded with memory.

In other news: Blues fans among you also might consider navigating over to Just a Song, where I have a post about Robert Johnson’s great “Terraplane Blues.” Next month on Robert Frost's Banjo, poem-wise? Another of my favorite poets—first Thursday & final Friday poems by Mina Loy.

But for now, hope you enjoy this fine poem!

A Certain Slant of Sunlight

In Africa the wine is cheap, and it is
on St. Mark's Place too, beneath a white moon.
I'll go there tomorrow, dark bulk hooded
against what is hurled down at me in my no hat
which is weather: the tall pretty girl in the print dress
under the fur collar of her cloth coat will be standing
by the wire fence where the wild flowers grow not too tall
her eyes will be deep brown and her hair styled 1941 American
        will be too; but
I'll be shattered by then
But now I'm not and can also picture white clouds
impossibly high in blue sky over small boy heartbroken
to be dressed in black knickers, black coat, white shirt,
        buster-brown collar, flowing black bow-tie
her hand lightly fallen on his shoulder, faded sunlight
across the picture, mother & son, 33 & 7, First Communion
        Day, 1941—
I'll go out for a drink with one of my demons tonight
they are dry in Colorado 1980 spring snow.

Ted Berrigan


  1. Your photo looks like Aussie actor Russell Crowe?
    Nice poem.

  2. I think suffering, like any strong, important experience, is grounded in our peculiarities and experiences. It takes shape in our own wholely personal language. One of the magical things is that sometimes, the imagery can end up resonating deeply. The sunlight in this poem slants across my heart in striations of warmth.

  3. Hi Crystal Mary & Nana Jo

    Crystal Mary: So glad you liked Mr Berrigan's poem! He does look a bit like Russell Crowe now that you mention it!

    Nan Jo: Beautifully said--thanks!


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