Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1945. A most prolific poet, her first book was published when she was twenty-three years old. For many years Mayer lived and worked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She was the Director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project from 1980 to 1984. Now, many texts later she continues to write progressive poetry from her home in East Nassau, New York. Mayer has taught at Naropa Poetics Institute, New School for Social Research, College of Staten Island, and New England College. She has received grants and awards from: PEN American Center, Foundation for Contemporary Performing Art, The NEA, The Academy for American Poets, and American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Works and Days

Part springtime journal (“why are there thorns?”), Works and Days meditates on the first wasps and chipmunks of the season, times’ passage, grackle hearts, and dandelions, while also collecting dozens of poems considering the Catholic Church, Sir Thomas Browne, “Go Away” welcome mats, books, floods (“never of dollar money”), the invention of words, local politics, friendships, property development, dogs, and Hesiod. Every page delights. As the poet herself notes: “My name is Bernadette Mayer, sometimes / I am at the head of my class.…
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Poetry Pamphlets 1–4

New Directions is happy to announce the publication of a new series of Poetry Pamphlets, a reincarnated version of the “Poet of the Month” and “Poets of the Year” series James Laughlin published in the 1940s, which brought out such eclectic hits as William Carlos Williams’s The Broken Span, Delmore Schwartz’s poetic play Shenandoah, John Donne’s Some Poems and a Devotion, and Yvor Winters’s Giant Weapon, among many others. The New Directions Poetry Pamphlets will highlight original work by writers from around the world, as well as forgotten treasures lost in the cracks of literary history.…
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The Helens of Troy, New York

Profiles of all the women named Helen in Troy, NY, with poems and images, mixing the classical with the ordinary and delightful intelligence with irreverence. everybody died there’s nothing more to say my hair’s braided like a family i took off, it was fun, i loved it if you did something wrong, they punished you one helen is enough, trust me
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Poetry State Forest

Called “a consummate poet” by Robert Creeley and “a poet of extraordinary inventiveness, erotic energy and challenge, and ironic intelligence” by Michael Palmer, Bernadette Mayer can be found in all her variety in Poetry State Forest, which contains nature poems, sonnets, prose poetry, pastiches, long sequences, and epigrams.
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Scarlet Tanager

Comprised almost entirely of never-before-collected poems, Scarlet Tanager is Bernadette Mayer’s first collection of new work in nearly a decade. Called “magnificent” by John Ashbery and “consummate” by Robert Creeley. Mayer mixes together delightful epigrams (“What it means to be a mammal / sexually /it’s cute”), long-line free verse, and her astonishing sonnets. There are also curious, extremely witty translations of Mayer poems into joking, free-style French, which are then re-translated back into English, landing quite some ways from the original.…
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Midwinter Day

Midwinter Day was written on December 22, 1978 at 100 Main Street, in Lennox, Massachusettes. “Midwinter Day,“ as Alice Notley noted, “is an epic poem about a daily routine.” A poem in six parts, Midwinter Day takes us from awakening and emerging from dreams through the whole day-morning, afternoon, evening, night-to dreams again: “… a plain introduction to modes of love and reason / Then to end I guess with love, a method to this winter season / Now I’ve said this love it’s all I can remember / Of Midwinter Day the twenty-second of December.…
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A Bernadette Mayer Reader

“Truly this is the best How To book I’ve read in years. Bernadette Mayer makes a various world of real people in real times and places, a fact of love and loving use. She has impeccable insight and humor. She is a consummate poet no matter what’s for supper or who eats it. Would that all genius were as generous.” – Robert Creeley Be strong Bernadette Nobody will ever know…
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Powered by Mayer’s unique reflections on the mythologies of social and linguistic order, Works & Days possesses a rare combination of artfulness, critical acumen, and personality. The end result is a book that is at once formally inventive and disturbingly of our times.

—Michael Miller NBCC

Her latest collection, “Works and Days,” which came out this June, is among her very best, colliding daily struggles (menstruation, money) with natural obsessions (blue herons, mushrooms) and big unanswerable questions (Is motherhood virtuous? Whither patriarchy?). All of this is undergirded by a hefty serving of irony… Mayer writes the kind of nonsense that makes sense, and sense that is nonsense: I can’t think of a better centering device in these topsy-turvy times.

—Daniel Wenger, The New Yorker

Sly, spry and unpretentious…

—Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

Mayer’s new collection, Works and Days, mixes poems and journal entries, glorying in both the burgeoning of spring and the accidents and irruptions of language.

—Christine Smallwood, Harper’s

The experience of reading Works and Days is exhilarating; it’s like encountering a new, never-before-seen contemporary artwork you know will stand the test of time…There is no other book from this year I’d more like to read again.

Flavorwire

Like Hesiod’s famed work from nearly three millennia ago, Mayer’s diaristic book-length poem addresses matters of corruption and injustice, contemplates nature and housekeeping, and dips in and out of mythological imagery. That the collection is written in a freewheeling, humorous and exceedingly casual tone makes the profundity of Mayer’s observations all the more striking.

Chicago Tribune

Comprising teensy, often inconsequential moments—like whether it’s rained or has been threatening to rain—these prosaic morsels are gorgeous and serene. Hardly any of Mayer’s days are spectacular, but her eye is so keenly attune to all that surrounds her that nearly everything feels touched with grandeur.

The Paris Review

One of the most interesting, exciting, and open experimental poets.

—Tom Clark, San Francisco Chronicle

Mayer’s work is marked with Dorothy Parker’s bite and bawdiness and Gertrude Stein’s inventive discourse.

The Antioch Review

Love and the seasons and the exigencies and opportunities of daily survival are the inevitable occasions of a body of work that is as radical as it is Horatian, able as little else is both to delight and instruct.

—Edwin Frank, Boston Review

The richness of life & time as they happen to us in tiny explosions all the time are grasped and held up for us to view in her magnificent work.

—John Ashbery

[Mayer] writes as if everything were still possible in the work of a lifetime at the coincidence of all the turvy moments.

Clark Coolidge

Bernadette Mayer is a poet of extraordinary inventiveness, erotic energy and challenge, and ironic intelligence.

—Michael Palmer

Bernadette Mayer is an independent experimental writer who likes to bounce artballs off traditional walls.

—Jackson Mac Low

The richness of life and time as they happen to us in tiny explosions all the time are grasped and held up for us to view in this magnificent work of prose and poetry that teaches us at the end ‘no one knows why / Nothing happens.’

—John Ashbery
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