Notes from Irrelevance

Self-referential story material and the matter of the current cultural moment are enmeshed in Anselm Berrigan's book-length poem. This short volume of poetry manages to weave in complex feelings and images of family, faith, memory, and art. An excerpt from the poem reads: "Is a nude picture of / Jackie O found in / Andy Warhol's suitcase / really a bizarre item? / Isn't it a slightly tone- / deaf piece of nostalgia, / an entryway back to a / simpler time when there / was less to know about / so much more? Or did / I get that backwards?"


Notes from Irrelevance manages to remain intimate; its colloquialism and conversational mode engages the reader. Take, for instance, the following excerpt:


    My sense of my own
    history with images is
    such that I consciously
    developed a willingness
    to let them go—to not
    take pictures though
    I'd keep feverishly
    those gifted to me. I
    might like the feeling 
    a photo meant I looked
    like something: vanity
    to affect to desperate
    preservation of a
    moment that never
    felt settled or even

With its contained columnar form and tireless forward motion, the poem lends itself to be read in one sitting, and offers the reader an experience of the poet's thought process and progression.

This book review originally appeared in American Poet, fall 2011, issue 41.