Bean Spasms by Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett, with art by Joe Brainard


Mrs. Dalloway's Books (Berkeley, CA) / Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)


Bean Spasms is a collection of poetry, weird detritus and tomfoolery by collaborators and 60s counter-culture poets Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett. On the page opposite the table of contents in Bean Spasms, there’s an illustration of two monkeys at a typewriter by fellow pot-stirrer/artist Joe Brainard. In it, the line-drawn chimps lean on a stack of books while one cranks the roller, a few pages of finished words on the table to his right. This is an exercise in monkey business. Don’t worry: you will not be tested.

Bean Spasms, a Granary Books reissue originally published by radical 60s outfit Kulchur Press, eludes conventional categorization: it’s almost petulant in its refusal to be pigeon-holed. Short, absurd vignettes jumbling subjects and verbs give way to nonsensical poems that give way to goofy mish-mashes of sophisticated prose and colloquial speech. Despite its occasional sense of rambling – absurdity is, after all, absurd – Bean Spasms is winsome. An enjoyable read in 2015, the book might also be viewed as an historical document, albeit one that won’t commit to factuality or seriousness. Berrigan and Padgett’s collaboration is emblematic of the New York School culture’s rebuttal of stodgy, self-serious American literature, but more importantly (thank God), it’s fun—whatever the duo was attempting, lofty or not, they were having a damn good time getting there, two artists riffing on their shared interests behind a typewriter, not unlike those Brainard monkeys on the second page.


Bean Spasms is published by Granary Books and distributed by DAP/

$39.95   PB   212 pages with 23 bw illustrations   ISBN: 978-1-887123-80-8   Pub date: 2012