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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.

Tis Late

April Bernard

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

was a graduate student

in playwriting who can and will

recite "At the round earth's

imagined corners, blow—"

announces silently amidst her louder

announcements that the experiment

some amateurs mixed of

white fizzing democracy

with smoky purple capitalism

has failed. We already knew that.

Her madness is my madness

and this is my flower in a cone

of waste paper I stole from

someone’s more authentic grief

but I will not bless you

as I have no spirit of commerce

and no returning customers

and do not as so many must

actually beg for my bread. It is another

accident of the lab explosion

that while most died and others lost legs

some of us are only vaguely queasy

at least for now

and of course mad conveniently mad

necessarily mad because

"tis late to ask for pardon" and

we were so carefully schooled

in false hope schooled

like the parrot who crooks her tongue

like a dirty finger

repeating what her flat bright eyes deny.

 

About this poem:

"In a New England city where I once lived, there is a well-known local "character," a former graduate student, now street person, who recites poetry from the canon. I put a Donne sonnet in her mouth for this poem’s purposes, because Donne is one of my touchstones and because, as I hope is obvious from the poem, she and I have so much in common. We are all of us only one or two steps away from the street."

April Bernard

Copyright © 2013 by April Bernard. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by April Bernard. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 28, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

April Bernard

April Bernard

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

by this poet

poem
You know what I mean: In the instant
of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles—

He's still alive—She came back—They didn't mean it—
We forgive and are forgiven—It all turned out—

And then the hand claws the duvet,
seized by the real, as all that's warm just drops.

I know you know. But I seek a potion
to make
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
poem
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