Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bill Berkson, In Memorium (1939-2016) - poet and Louise Brooks devotee

Bill Berkson, acclaimed poet and and friend to the Louise Brooks Society, passed away early today (June 16th). Berkson was a writer, art critic and curator of considerable accomplishment. He was also a big fan of Louise Brooks.

I had the pleasure and the honor of having put on an event with Berkson some years ago, as well as visiting Bill at his book and art filled San Francisco apartment, where we talked about our favorite silent film star and the time that he and his good friend, the poet Frank O'Hara, attended a 1961 screening of Prix de Beaute in New York City. Afterwords, both Berkson and O'Hara wrote poems inspired by the actress.

O’Hara wrote “F.Y.I. (Prix de Beaute),” which references the actress. It was first published in a small literary journal. And, it was later collected in The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, to which Berkson wrote the footnote and explained its inspiration.

Berkson ending up writing “Bubbles,” which was based on the essays Brooks was publishing in film journals in the 1960s. “Bubbles” was likewise published in a small press magazine and later collected in book form in Lush Life (1984).

In 1997, Berkson allowed me to print the poem as a broadside. It was one of a small series of poems inspired by / or in homage to the actress which I’ve desktop published in small autographed editions. A scan of the broadside – which depicts an image of the actress floating beneath the text of the poem – is shown here.


Here is a link to a piece I wrote about Berkson for the San Francisco Chronicle website back in 2011.  

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