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About this poet

Bernadette Mayer was born on May 12, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BA from the New School for Social Research in 1967.

She is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including: Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 2008), Scarlet Tanager (2005), Two Haloed Mourners: Poems (1998), Proper Name and Other Stories (1996), The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters (1994), The Bernadette Mayer Reader (1992), Sonnets (1989), Midwinter Day (1982), The Golden Book of Words (1978), and Ceremony Latin (1964).

From 1967 to 1969, Mayer and conceptual artist Vito Acconci edited the journal 0 TO 9. With her husband, writer and publisher Lewis Warsh, she edited United Artists Press. She has taught writing workshops at The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in New York City for many years and she served as the Poetry Project's director during the 1980s. Bernadette Mayer lives in East Nassau, New York.

Poem [song birds take a bath in our elephant pool]

Bernadette Mayer, 1945
song birds take a bath in our elephant pool
turtles don't come to our turtle yet
sunflower cytology apprehend the weeds in our garden
cytologies you mean & well there's poison ivy
as in drew barrymore or
dream creatures knocking at the window
threatening to kill you on a snowy road
and now the luna moth creeps along as creeks bring
blue herons flying into flower
watches like herons nesting oh! what mayhem
we behold, so many Gnostic beings landing at our
doorstep ready to start something or else
there'll be a rainbow or parhelion or fire or
with the party to put an end to hunger as they say
in the old days and should we have a rent strike
à la hoag's corners? what wilt thou?
frogs and bugs and little dead farm animals in the
hay, oh hell i've lived in new york city
i know about dead beings like all get out
of the sidewalks and burning buildings along with
the living tho the living usually stay unless they're
          the living dead

From Scarlet Tanager. Copyright © 2005 by Bernadette Mayer. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

From Scarlet Tanager. Copyright © 2005 by Bernadette Mayer. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including: Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 2008). 

by this poet

poem
First turn to me after a shower,
you come inside me sideways as always

in the morning you ask me to be on top of you,
then we take a nap, we’re late for school

you arrive at night inspired and drunk,
there is no reason for our clothes

we take a bath and lie down facing each other,
then later we turn over,
poem
I write this love as all transition
As if I'm in instinctual flight,
                                    a small lady bug
With only two black dots on its back
Climbs like a blind turtle on my pen
And begins to drink ink in the light
                                             of tradition
We're allowed to crowd
poem
I saw a great teapot
I wanted to get you this stupendous
100% cotton royal blue and black checked shirt,
There was a red and black striped one too
Then I saw these boots at a place called Chuckles
They laced up to about two inches above your ankles
All leather and in red, black or purple
It was hard to have no