October 17, 2013

FIELD WORK: Bill Berkson

On the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, SFMOMA curator of public programs Frank Smigiel and poet and playwright Kevin Killian co-organized a small chapbook of poetry, beautifully hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback. We are posting selections from FIELD WORK on Open Space throughout the fall.

No Argument


As cicadas split hairs at sunset
          skidmarks reel off frilly increments
                      lifting on high the clear carnal sea

Pure Saturnalia––be captivated if you can
          with that approximate yearning for borders
                      like when you first heard the music whispered low

What it was was Sprechstimme
          echo of life’s primordial Kunstwollen
                      blank check of the air

I always thought a tree house was involved
          the secret loves of a chainlink fence
                      you stand mesmerized

while the beholders scatter
          their potshots getting cozier
                      on the last meteor out

Ancestral faces hang on the old oak tree of a cloud
          time out of reach for the main complaint
                      omit the wake-up stifle any kindred sense of smell

A film is gathering of exceedingly correct proportions
          to puncture maybe tumble into
                      not even once


Poet and critic Bill Berkson is Professor Emeritus at the San Francisco Art Institute, a contributing editor (poetry) for artcritical.com, and a corresponding editor for Art in America. His most recent books of poems include Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems (which won the Balcones Prize for best poetry book in 2010); Not an Exit, with drawings by Léonie Guyer; and Repeat After Me, with watercolors by John Zurier. Other books include two collections of his criticism, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writings: 1985-2003 and For the Ordinary Artist; Sudden Address: Selected lectures 1981-2006; and an epistolary collaboration with Bernadette Mayer entitled What’s Your Idea of a Good Time?. A major new collection of his poems, Expect Delays, is due from Coffee House Press in fall 2014.

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