Born in New York in 1939, Bill Berkson is a poet, critic, teacher and sometime curator, who has been active in the art and literary worlds since his early twenties. Director of Letters and Science at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1993 to 1998, he taught art history, critical writing and poetry and directed the public lectures program there from 1984 to 2007. He studied at Trinity School, The Lawrenceville School, Brown University, Columbia, the New School and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.
He is the author of several books and pamphlets of poetry—including, most recently, Gloria, a portfolio of poems with etchings by Alex Katz (Arion Press, 2005), Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently (The Owl Press, 2007) and Goods and Services (Blue Press, 2008). Other recent books are What's Your Idea of a Good Time: Letters & Interviews 1977-1985 with Bernadette Mayer (Tuumba Press, 2006; BILL with drawings by Colter Jacobsen; and Ted Berrigan with George Schneeman. A collection of his criticism, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writings, appeared in 2004, and Sudden Address: Selected Lectures 1981-2006 in 2007.Portrait and Dream: Selected Poems 1959-2008 will appear from Coffee House Press in Spring 2009
Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently
You hope the Earth is equitable,
Because why else are you here,
Fraught with the extra time
And sure-fire energy, clear
And in the same breath, not.
Garbage, detritus, commandeers
Much of each day,
But materiality doesn't look that way to a peanut
Nor yet at us, prey as we seem to be
To the intimate void granted to assuage the even bigger abyss without.
Beams keep solvent if unpolished in
Amassed yearly vaultings.
Crumbs and contouring in an antique frame
Compound the sands they shift and bear the foot
Traffic along its jagged route.
Old Walkway, you who are traditionally mistaken about
Your portion of this well-whittled master plan,
How phenomena lodge
In every filter and grander
Conceptions dance the Life-form Jack.
Sorry about what passes as fact
In emboldened dot patterns, extended fingerings
Like Norway's prettiest tree
Against clouds' residual entertainment brought home
To meet our obligations should pockets fail.