"Kreepie Kats" Guy Speaks

Genius? Idiot? Poetry-world provocateur Jim Behrle likes Ginsberg and acrylic poo

"He didn't become famous by being nice to everybody and wearing patches on the elbows of his sport jacket. He was like, 'I'm an idiot and I'm going to go around and do these incredibly nutty things,' and people responded. 'Oh yeah, Allen Ginsberg, that poet, I heard about him. I saw him playing the harp with his face and praying to Krishna' or whatever."

Reactions to Behrle's antics have been similar, if not quite so sympathetic or widespread ("You are a deluded, out-of-control, irrational, paranoid, self-aggrandizing bully," poet Nada Gordon wrote on Behrle's blog, "and you need to stop this behavior"). But while Ginsberg gained notoriety for being nutty, his first book was also the landmark cultural achievement Howl.

Behrle's first book, She's My Best Friend—a collection of modest but engaging lyrics in the Frank O'Hara/Ted Berrigan mode—makes for an enjoyable read, but it's no Howl. Mostly concerned with "nerf sex dungeons," She's My Best Friend does spend considerable time on Behrle's pet obsession: how poetry reputations get made.

Jim Behrle, caped cartooning crusader
photo: Alana Cundy
Jim Behrle, caped cartooning crusader

"We've narrowed down people's approved paths through poetry," Behrle says. "It's like, if you're nice and get an MFA, you'll eventually be John Ashbery—you know, 80 years old, carrying a Bollingen around, drinking wine all day long. That's the dream.

"And there's some people living the dream, no question. I saw Peter Gizzi read the other day, and I was like, 'That's Elvis!' That dude is up there, living the poetry dream! Getting his books out there, getting the hot poetry wife-—I mean, those seem like great things. But that dude's huge only in the molehill that is our poetry world consciousness."

Behrle, though, believes he's found the perfect thing to expand this consciousness, as well as outsiders' awareness of poetry: cartoons of deluded, self-aggrandizing bears pissing on ex–poet laureate Billy Collins.

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