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The Sonnets

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  921 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Originally published in 1964, The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan is considered by many to be his most important and influential book. This new annotated edition, with an introduction by Alice Notley, includes seven previously uncollected works. Like Shakespeare's sonnets, Berrigan's poems involve friendship and love triangles, but while the former happen chronologically, Berrigan ...more
Paperback, 94 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1964)
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Carrie Lorig
Jan 09, 2013 Carrie Lorig rated it it was amazing
FUCK YOU TED I WILL DO IT TO YOU WITH GREEN NOODLES. I LOVE YOU WHY CAN'T WE PEPSI TOGETHER. Don't just read this. Listen to this on Penn Sound while you eat red noodles.
Dec 29, 2008 Laurie rated it really liked it
Alice Notley writes in this introduction that Ted Berrigan took inspiration from, among other things, John Cage and Alfred North Whitehead. Specifically, their thoughts on chance (your chance is not the same as my chance), order (using I-Ching and other devices to plot order into spontaneity) and time. For "time" in particular, Berrigan took the last line of some of these stanzas, used it as the first, then took the second to last, moved it to the top, and so on.

When I read this I had just put
Jun 14, 2015 Matthew rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
The definitive edition of Ted Berrigan's Sonnets is introduced with notes by Berrigan's widow, the poet Alive Notley. In the introduction, Motley stresses the important influence of Shakespeare's Sonnets; the profundity of Berrigan's transformation from being the poet of the commonplace A Lily For My Love to the poet of the experimental and unconventional Sonnets; an overview of the cast of allusive characters that includes friends, cultural figures, and literary influences; and perhaps most sig ...more
Patrick Gaughan
Feb 16, 2014 Patrick Gaughan rated it really liked it
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics lists three sonnet types: the Petrarchan, the Spenserian, and the Shakespearean. When will the Berriganian earn its rightful place amongst them? Fifty years after its original publication, Berrigan’s “classical and eclectic” tone (as Alice Notley calls it in her Introduction), his balance of reverence and irreverence, as well as his composition methods, remain influential to 21th century verse. Berrigan pays homage to Shakespeare and these l ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Rufussenex rated it really liked it
The Sonnets are one of the best examples of what I call "phantom limb" poetry; you read it, and feel the trace of some emotion so viscerally that you are convinced it must be real, but upon thought and concentration and meditation realize is nothing at all. But unlike other poets of this genre –the Ashberys, and Palmers, the Scalapinos– I find Berrigan's opus endlessly human and fascinating, a free verse koan that I can ponder forever, and from which I draw the most sincere inspiration.
Aug 06, 2008 Donald rated it it was amazing
How come nobody has made me read this before? How come nobody has made me read Ted Berrigan?

You fuckers! You are all absolute fuckers!
Timothy Green
Nov 24, 2008 Timothy Green rated it it was ok
I think there are two kinds of poetry readers -- those who want poetry to be an experience, and those who want it to be a puzzle. For the latter, this is going to be one of the greatest books of the last half-century. As for me, though, I'd much rather get my pleasure directly from a poem than from analyzing it. The Sonnets are all cut-up poems -- Berrigan uses what he cryptically refers to as "The Process" to rearrange the lines according to a mathematical, syntactically random, pattern. A few ...more
Chris Schaeffer
May 04, 2012 Chris Schaeffer rated it it was amazing
I like to think that when he says "DEAR CHRIS" he meant me.
James Cook
Jul 02, 2017 James Cook rated it liked it
I'm a fan of the Sonnets, of the idea of the Sonnets, and I have no qualms with the method, and I like Alfred North Whitehead too, and its poetic blasphemy to say this, but...they're kind of boring here and there. Some of the repeated lines that become motifs are placed too near each other. I feel like the passage of time and the 'advance' of post-avant poetry has diminished their radicalism to a degree. That being said, they are fun, and you come across lines that blow you away, like say: "Max ...more
Bud Smith
Apr 18, 2014 Bud Smith rated it really liked it
The first time through this slim book of sonnets, I had little idea what was going on. I enjoyed that though. The mystery and the puzzle of what the author was saying and what it was supposed to mean. They were big things, good things, over my head type things, but I liked it all none the less--in a way, I might enjoy looking at graphitti on a brick wall, something I don't understand but can appreciate and get lost in. Berrigan is writing, repeatedly about about life in a city, the many American ...more
Tami Lynn Andrew
May 13, 2011 Tami Lynn Andrew rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this collection. Part of me really likes the way Berrigan's poems are all flowing from one to the next. He scraps lines and re-uses them, as if the whole thing is an attempt to get a completed 5 poems out of hundreds. The other part of me is not interested in reading his journal and finds it hard to take these sonnets seriously if they are just re-writes of themselves. I found that I really enjoyed the handful of poems that were "completed," the final time he used cer ...more
Justin Tyner
Aug 08, 2014 Justin Tyner rated it really liked it
Just yesterday and now and forever. Beuatiful. Death Love Beauty inspiration . love hate. All things poetry should be.

Into the closed air of the slow
Warmth comes, a slow going down of the Morning Land
She is warm. Into the vast closed air of the slow
Going down of the Morning Land
One vast under pinning trembles doom ice
Spreads beneath the mud troubled ice
Smother of a sword
Into her quick weak heat. She
Is introspection. One vast ice laden
Vast seas of doom and mud spread across the lake. Quick
Erin Lyndal
Sep 02, 2014 Erin Lyndal rated it liked it
I had wanted to read this book for ages, and becoming such a huge Alice Notley fan in recent history just upped the ante.

I did not love this book as much as I had expected. If I were to read more about it or engage with scholarly perspectives on it, I think I'd get much more out of it. Unfortunately, I'm not excited enough by this book yet to do so and will most likely just move on to a different text.

I enjoyed the way Berrigan would repeat lines from one poem in another. That has some excitin
Jul 19, 2007 Joe rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: if you like Frank O'Hara...or L=A=N=G....
Shelves: poetry
This is a good book and an important--but THIS EDITION keeps us from seeing this as a masterpiece.

Berrigan is breaking ground here--doing things with repetition and fragmentation in ways far more engaging than FOH's "Biotherm." The play between structure and digression is wonderful. Often, the most delightful/nonsequiter line in a sonnet is the one that ends up repeated in a later poem--what seems to break the pattern becomes part of it. And it's funny & it's sad & all that good stuff t
John Vanderslice
Oct 18, 2013 John Vanderslice rated it really liked it
Anyone studying the sonnet form, as I have been this fall, should read this book. Berrigan is both deeply respectful of the sonnet traditon and a radical innovator, bringing modernistic compositional techniques and a postmodern sensibility to the collection. These poems definitely feel of their cultural time, late 50s/early 60s, and yet have a palpalbe, sometimes accidental, sonorous quality. Before you read them I suggest that you do a little research into how he composed them. That will shed a ...more
David Enos
Nov 30, 2007 David Enos rated it liked it
Some funny stuff, some sad stuff. He works in a repetitive style where the same phrases keep showing up and he is a vocabulary genius. Best to read in short segments, at night. You can imagine it is 1971 and you live in a house made out of wicker. To really enjoy it, try to get the copy with a red cover and black circle-grid. The picture on the back is good to see, he wore an Everett Koop style beard with a turtleneck and glasses.
Nov 14, 2015 Keight rated it really liked it
This book plays with repetition and deconstruction with many instances of the same lines being rearranged or placed in different contexts throughout the poems. I liked the concept, even if the poems I liked the most were the outliers that seemed to resist the collage treatment. Read more on the booklog for two of those outlier favorites
Feb 20, 2008 Dawn rated it really liked it
I've forgotten that I read this last year, until I stumbled upon it in my iTunes. It's better coming back to it. What at first struck me as crafty now seems more natural in the approach of the sonnets.

Hear Me Reading The Sonnets (Badly)

The Sonnets
Dec 17, 2007 Rebecca added it
Shelves: poetry
Yay. Derek and I listened to these, amongst other poems, in his car on our way to Vegas last year. To this day, I cannot think of that trip without thinking of the line we both seemed to feel more or less summed up that little trip and each of our lives in general at that particular cosmic juncture: "I took a pill. I feel ill/ but optimistic."
Jan 06, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it
Really between a 3 and a half and a four.

Some of the pomes are beautifully written and some of the repitions work better in certain poems than in others. however over all by the time you reach the end you feel as if this whole time someone has let you into the private sectors of their life,the oridinary and the lovely and how combined they create something sort of wonderful.
Sep 02, 2013 Evelyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This book, and some articles relating to it, have really changed the way I write and interpret poetry. Absolutely stunning and beautiful. Also, Notley's introduction and footnotes are extremely helpful
Nov 30, 2011 Bethany rated it liked it
Confounded me somewhat. A second read will heighten my enjoyment, i think. I did like it though. I think hearing him read these on Penn Sound adds a tremendous amount to savoring it, though. My favorites were ones where he used the I, and i could still connect with the narrator on a human level.
Apr 16, 2008 Lindsay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the modernist movement
Recommended to Lindsay by: Catie
Shelves: poetry
This poet is poignant in short jerks. Normally, a poem is an idea wrapped up in a beautiful, clever, or eloquent way. These poems are several unrelated ideas thrown together in a literary orgy of modern proportions.

I mostly enjoy Berrigan in bits.
Xander Stronach
Jan 01, 2013 Xander Stronach rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Simply the best book of poetry I've ever read. Beautiful, clever, innovative, transformative. It's not easy to get into but once you've cracked it, you'll be blown away.
Jason Koo
Apr 23, 2012 Jason Koo rated it really liked it
A fun, really interesting sequences that changes every time you read it. Fun to read it in many different directions, from different starting points.
Oct 03, 2008 Kid rated it it was ok
This is a highly regarded poetry book from the 60s - but its not doing it for me.
Feb 04, 2015 Tinker rated it it was amazing
one of the most important books of the latter part of the twentieth century. for everyone, but especially for me.
Apr 08, 2008 Rich rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Like Robert Lowell and Gerald Stern, Berrigan had taken liberties with the sonnet, making it his own, in his own unique experimental way.
Feb 22, 2008 Steven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
Been thinking a lot about sonnets so I've been casually re-reading parts of this book only to realize it's been too long since I've read any Berigan.
Aug 12, 2008 Zach rated it really liked it
I've never gotten really really into Berrigan, but this book is pretty unfuckwitable.
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  • “A”
  • My Life
  • My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry
  • The Maximus Poems
  • A Bernadette Mayer Reader
  • Collected Works
  • Collected Poems of George Oppen
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975
  • Rivers and Mountains
  • The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy
  • Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005
  • Sleeping With the Dictionary
  • Gunslinger
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Ring of Fire

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