Mayer is the recipient of the 2014 Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award. Mayer is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry, including The Bernadette Mayer Reader, Midwinter Day, The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, and Poetry State Forest. Recently published are her works, The Helens of Troy, NY, Studying Hunger Journals and Ethics of Sleep. A former director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery and co-editor of the conceptual magazine 0 to 9 with Vito Acconci. Mayer has been a key figure on the New York poetry scene for decades.
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, The Poetry Society of America, and American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Schwartzwald
Sonnets is widely considered to be one of Bernadette Mayer’s most generative and generous books of poetry. Its exploration and explosion of the sonnet form has given rise to generations of new sonnets, forms, sources and ways of being. Utopian love poems written to both sexes, all sexes, Shakespeare, and everyone in your zip code make up this much sought-after, underground classic. Long out-of-print, Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnets is now available in a special 25th Anniversary Edition with 21 never-before-published “Skinny Sonnets” written hypnogogically in reporter’s notebooks, plus archival material from the original edition.
I didn’t realize I had written these sonnets much less that I had written them for such a long time but one year recently without anticipation I found I was writing sonnets all the time and after a while I began to expect to write them and soon in the midst of all this contemporary sonnet writing going on I looked through my past poems in the morning and discovered I’d been writing the always somehow peripheral sonnet all along without understanding the forms of brief conclusive thought the poems had been taking so often in 14 lines without me. How serious notorious and public a form, to think you could find the solution to a problem or an ending to an observation in one brief moment – a fraction of an abreaction or the science of the pattern of crumbs appearing on the table from the eating of a loaf of bread. Why are we as human beings so sturdy? How can we conscion existence much less love? Is that why we have philosophy? Why deconstruct so innately? Is the sonnet form a form of abdication of reality? Because it is so neat & thus does have conclusion? Is poetry’s method of conclusion disjoined to for instance the life of the bee? If there are no conclusions why do we wish for them? Love must be a subject I felt. Are poems like dreams representations of the absolute beauty of the future? Is the dilation of a form like the unbelievability and consequent common acceptance of the something giving birth as if that were something less or more equal to the necessity of having as many astonishing fingers as have not once been lost? When I studied my poems, I covered the floor with them and made a survey. The inadvertent sonnets, most of love in doubt, won the contest among other forms and other subjects, landlord political sex suppressed, tied only with the categories of experimental workouts, poems for the dead and I don’t know. And so it seemed most likely even honest, given the chance, to make availablest the headlong sonnets which are a way of thinking amidst our hemispheric faults – put on what you call what a woman wears around her waist, our many-colored octave, then rest from thought and formulate the next design.
Bernadette’s work has been reviewed un-numerously. Please visit highlights at Wikipedia & The Poetry Foundation.
& Sonnets will be republished in the forthcoming