Ted Berrigan

Although he may have not been as artistic as Notley and Brainard, Ted Berrigan was a prominent face of the New York School poets and was infatuated with visual art. Berrigan made numerous collages and mixed media projects throughout his active years and always seemed to find a way into the art community of New York in the 1960s.


In Berrigan’s The Sonnets, the uses of imagery provides a visualization for the reader almost equivalent to Brainard’s I Remember. The reader is able to visualize each line, but is then required to make a new picture for themselves as they move to the next line. The way these poems were created may provide some insight into this visualization technique. Berrigan would take various poems that he enjoyed and saw potential in, but had never been published or used in the past. Berrigan would then go through this stack of poems, and pick a line. He would do this until he had 12 lines of his sonnet. From there, he was able to finish the last two lines and complete the sonnet. This resembles the collage technique used by Brainard and other New York School poets. 


Even when creating poems, Berrigan was using this assembly / collage technique from previous works to make a new one. Even though the final draft seemed to be just a poem, visual art techniques were used to create these works. There is even references of his friend Joe Brainard in The Sonnets. Ted even uses one of Brainard’s collages as inspiration for one of the sonnets, number 14.


Berrigan used visual art and visual art techniques to expand upon his works. He used visual art to make things better, to make them new. It added a fresh and tasteful aspect that Berrigan could use to reinvent.

Berrigan was also went through a period in his life where he wrote for the widely circulated art magazine, ARTnews. Taking after his predecessors such as John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara of the first generation New York poets, Berrigan wanted to continue to immerse himself in the art community ever growing around him (Sturm). Berrigan’s knowledge of visual art and his aesthetic vocabulary seen in these reviews is also a reflection of his writings, more specifically, The Sonnets.


Even in Berrigan’s numerous notebooks, each page had doodles and drawings of various items. Drawings by brainard’s Nancy seem to have been cut out and pasted onto the ined pages, and several self-portraits are scattered throughout the several notebooks at the Emory Rose library. Berrigan’s mind always seemed to be racing in these journals, always trying to get the thought down that he just had. The writing is scattered, sideways, and messy, while his art is the exact opposite. The art was never rushed, no matter who it was by, and always made an impact on the page that it resided on.


Photographs were also a big part of Berrigan’s notebooks. There were countless pictures of his children, friends, and Alice Notley, his wife. Drawing on the photographs was not uncommon either. Possibly these notebooks were meant to be their own sort of visual art in itself.