Bernadette Mayer

Winner of the 2014 Shelley Memorial Award


Thank you, all of you,
For helping in raising
Money in the USA where
I grew up, became one
of the poets but can't
Earn a living, floods
Are never of dollar money
We'd take just the ones
From the tops of waves
To pay bills for what
The earth's arranged
We'd have for free, if
Only enough poets could
Explain how to do it
I'm trying and thanking
You all for helping
me pass thru the eye
of a capitalism's needle
Bravo! Brava! Onward!

* * *
Bernadette Mayer's poetry has been praised by John Ashbery as "magnificent." Brenda Coultas calls her a master of "devastating wit." Mayer is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry, including Midwinter Day, Sonnets, 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.



Ben Doller and Joan Larkin on Bernadette Mayer

For a generation of poets, Bernadette Mayer has stood as a brilliant example of how to live a life in poetry and how to create a poetry out of life. From her early performance-based work in which she explored the lines between memory, documentary, and presence, to her current work which excavates the DNA of the struggling city in which she lives (Troy, NY), Mayer's writing has always been fiercely, independently ahead of its time. Feminist and expansive—in multiple directions—Mayer's voice is one that cuts the wind, leads the charge, and always tells the smooth, hard truth. In a massive body of work that juxtaposes the quotidian with the spectacular, the public with the personal, Mayer has emerged as the chief poet of time in our time. Throughout her still-evolving career, Mayer consistently transcends category, genre, and label, carving open space for new forms of writing, thinking, and being. From her early work as the co-founder and editor of the influential 0 to 9 with Vito Acconci, to her deeply collaborative and creative poetry friendships, to her radical investigations into egalitarian pedagogy, Bernadette Mayer is a poet who has given more than she has taken—she has given proliferation back to poetry, and poetry back to art. 

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