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About this poet

Born in 1960, April Bernard grew up in New England, where she was educated at Harvard University. Upon receiving her bachelor's degree, she moved to New York City to work in publishing, eventually serving as senior editor of Vanity Fair. Despite her success, Bernard left publishing in order to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature from Yale University.

Her first book, Blackbird Bye Bye (Random House, 1989), was chosen by Amy Clampitt as the winner of the 1989 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. The judge commended the book for its utter lack of apology, saying: "The wit here is corrosive, the ear faultless, the raised voice one to which we cannot but listen."

Her other acclaimed books of poetry include: Romanticism (W. W. Norton, 2009); Swan Electric (2002); Psalms (1995). She is also the author of a novel, Pirate Jenny (W. W. Norton, 1990).

Of her work, the poet John Ashbery has said, "April Bernard's voice is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but the wilderness is our populated, all too familar one and her psalms are striped with modern despair, loving, and knowing."

Bernard has taught at Amherst College, Baruch College, and Bennington College, where she is currently on the faculty of the MFA program. She also serves as the Director of Creative Writing at Skidmore College.

Bernard is the recipient of many honors, including a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship. She currently lives in Bennington, Vermont.

Beagle or Something

April Bernard
The composer's name was Beagle or something,
one of those Brits who make the world wistful
with chorales and canticles and this piece,
a tone poem or what-have-you,
chimes and strings aswirl, dangerous for one
whose eye lids and sockets have been rashing from tears.
The music occupied the car where
I had parked and then sat, staring at
a tree, a smallish maple,
fire-gold and half-undone by the wind, 
shaking in itself,
shocking blue morning sky behind, and also
the trucks and telephone wires and dogs
and children late to school along Orange Street, but
it was the tree that caused an uproar,
it was the tree that shook and shed,
aureate as a shaken soul, I remembered
I was supposed to have one—for convenience

I placed it in my chest, the heart being away,
and now it seems the soul has lodged there, shaking,
golden-orange, half-spent but clanging
truer than Beagle music or my forehead pressed 
hard on the steering wheel in petition for release.

"Beagle or Something", from Romanticism by April Bernard. Copyright © 2009 by April Bernard. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

"Beagle or Something", from Romanticism by April Bernard. Copyright © 2009 by April Bernard. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

April Bernard

April Bernard

Born in 1960, April Bernard grew up in New England, where she

by this poet

poem

Of course the tall stringy woman

draped in a crocheted string-shawl

selling single red carnations

coned in newsprint the ones

she got at the cemetery

and resells with a god bless you

for a dollar that same woman

who thirty years ago

poem
The cloth edge of certainty
has shredded down to this:
God and love are real,
but very far away.
If I go to Istanbul, will I return?
That is not one of the permitted questions.
When I go to Istanbul, how will I bear to return?
I could slip into the small streets
to the high plain and the Caucasus—

It's all
poem
At least that many buffet here, and I
erect as the monument despite my hope to be flattened.
If only the winds could take the horse-sobs
that heave from me, wind-whipped
without the grace of speech; if only
these small creatures with amused, skeptical eyes
could offer me their chittering, their business
of