Bernadette Mayer: 1945–2022

Related: Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer, beloved friend and giant of American poetry, died last week in Poetry State Forest, NY.

We share here one of our favorite poems and remember Bernadette’s great hooting laugh and love for oysters.

Our deepest condolences to all who loved and knew her as we did.

—New Directions

Essay

I guess it’s too late to live on the farm

I guess it’s too late to move to a farm

I guess it’s too late to start farming

I guess it’s too late to begin farming

I guess we’ll never have a farm

I guess we’re too old to do farming

I guess we couldn’t afford to buy a farm anyway

I guess we’re not suited to being farmers

I guess we’ll never have a farm now

I guess farming is not in the cards now

I guess Lewis wouldn’t make a good farmer

I guess I can’t expect we’ll ever have a farm now

I guess I have to give up all my dreams of being a farmer

I guess I’ll never be a farmer now

We couldn’t get a farm anyway though Allen Ginsberg got one late in life

Maybe someday I’ll have a big garden

I guess farming is really out

Feeding the pigs and the chickens, walking between miles of rows of crops

I guess farming is just too difficult

We’ll never have a farm

Too much work and still to be poets

Who are the farmer poets

Was there ever a poet who had a self-sufficient farm

Flannery O’Connor raised peacocks

And Wendell Berry has a farm

Faulkner may have farmed a little

And Robert Frost had farmland

And someone told me Samuel Beckett farmed

Very few poets are real farmers

If William Carlos Williams could be a doctor and Charlie Vermont too,

Why not a poet who was also a farmer

Of course there was Brook Farm

And Virgil raised bees

Perhaps some poets of the past were overseers of farmers

I guess poets tend to live more momentarily

Than life on a farm would allow

You could never leave the farm to give a reading

Or to go to a lecture by Emerson in Concord

I don’t want to be a farmer but my mother was right

I should never have tried to rise out of the proletariat

Unless I can convince myself as Satan argues with Eve

That we are among a proletariat of poets of all the classes

Each ill-paid and surviving on nothing

Or on as little as one needs to survive

Steadfast as any farmer and fixed as the stars

Tenants of a vision we rent out endlessly