Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ron Padgett - How to Be Perfect

I’ve fallen in love with the poetry of Ron Padgett. I was aware of his work only generally, having (I think?) seen something in one of the Best American Poetry anthologies. So I put him on my big “to buy” list. I, fairly randomly, chose his 2007 book, How to Be Perfect. I started reading it last night, and I've gone all crazy with it.

Here are a couple poems at random:

For Morris Golde

It might have been when
I was standing in front of
Kierkegaard’s grave thinking
that his name means
churchyard that Moris
Golde was breathing his
last in St. Vincent’s, where
Jimmy died too, and what
was I doing then—and
what am I doing now?
Death throws everything
into high relief, itself
the highest—its uppermost
crag is where we sigh,
relax, and stretch out as
far as the mind can go.
I’m partway there is
A “deep” thought I can do
without, though I just
had it. I wish it would
get lighter faster. If it
were two weeks ago it
would be bright outside
instead of blue-gray.
Morris, you old thing.

Bastille Day

The first time I saw Paris
I went to see where the Bastille
had been, and though
I saw the column there
I was too aware that
the Bastille was not there:
I did not know how
to see the emptiness.
People go to see
the missing Twin Towers
and seem to like feeling
the lack of something.
I do not like knowing
that my mother no longer
exists, or the feeling
of knowing. Excuse me
for comparing my mother
to large buildings. Also
for talking about absence.
The red and gray sky
above the rooftops
is darkening and the inhabitants
are hastening home for dinner.
I hope to see you later.


At 10/22/2009 10:09 AM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

Sorry, more NYC-related comment... but I just saw/heard Ron Padgett at the Poets Forum last weekend and was really blown away -- by his poems and things he said during the panel discussion he took part in about "how poems end." (He began by reading just the last lines of many famous old poems.)

I want to pick this book up too.

Talking on stage, he made me think of a much older Jeff Goldblum!

At 10/22/2009 10:38 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


At 10/23/2009 6:40 AM, Blogger Brent Goodman said...

I too just discovered Ron within the last few months - How to Be Perfect especially - and consider him a new fav. Right on!

At 10/23/2009 7:08 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'm ready to join a fan club or something. I just ordered his New & Selected poems.

How to Be Perfect is such a good book. I'm shocked that I've gotten so far in my reading life and am just now finding his work.

I'm so thankful for all the people who have been suggesting things for me to buy this fall.

At 10/23/2009 11:55 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

You might like Ron's prose too, especially his memoir of Joe Brainard. (His other books -- memoirs of Ted Berrigan, and of his father, a legendary Tulsa bootlegger, as well as co-authored and co-edited books for Teachers & Writers Collaborative -- are pretty great, too.)

At 10/23/2009 1:52 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

I'm interested that you would go from his recent book to the New and Selected. If I'm discovering a poet, I tend to follow the opposite tack. I've enjoyed a lot of the Padgett I've read online recently, in fact, so I'm doing that right now with him.

At 10/23/2009 3:08 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I'm like that too, but I've been getting so many books this fall, I've gotten quite disorganized. I'm no longer following any logical procedure.

And thanks for sending me the hotel information. I've been so busy, I haven't gotten to it. I got home completely drained after the weekend.

At 10/25/2009 7:38 AM, Anonymous Gabriela said...


I am a great fan of your poetry and blog. I was hoping to attend the October's workshop you held last week - but could not make it. How did it go? Hopefully will be able to connect in future at one of the poetry readings in St. Louis. And $3,000 worth of poetry - how amazing is that!

At 10/25/2009 8:41 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


It would have been nice to meet you. I enjoyed going over for the weekend, with the only problem being that it was too short. It would have been nice to sit with everyone a bit longer.

$3,000 . . . even if it doesn't go as far as it used to, it still goes pretty far when buying books. Plus a couple plane tickets. And some gas!

At 10/26/2009 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


A thousand times yes: I love Padgett. If you think this book is good, read "You Never Know." It is my favorite book.

At 10/26/2009 8:23 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I've ordered a couple of his books that I could, but You Never Know, and the Selected & New Poems, are both more difficult to get. I'll order them later. Right now I'm going through what I can get from, because it's easy with the way the university is paying.

WV: shexper

I think he wrote plays?

At 2/04/2011 11:55 AM, Anonymous Viagra Online said...

there's no way to be perfect, this becuase the human don't have the true concept of the word perfect, for this reason we can't be perfect.


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