poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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: Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (Station Hill Press, 2015),  Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 2008), Scarlet Tanager (New Directions, 2005), Two Haloed Mourners (Granary Books, 1998), Proper Name and Other Stories (New Directions, 1996), The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters (Hard Press Editions, 1994), The Bernadette Mayer Reader (New Directions, 1992), Sonnets (Tender Buttons Press, 1989), Midwinter Day (New Directions, 1982), The Golden Book of Words (Angel Hair Books, 1978), and Ceremony Latin (Angel Hair Books, 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.


Selected Bibliography

Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (Station Hill Press, 2015)
Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 2008)
Scarlet Tanager (New Directions, 2005)
Two Haloed Mourners (Granary Books, 1998)
Proper Name and Other Stories (New Directions, 1996)
The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters (Hard Press Editions, 1994)
The Bernadette Mayer Reader (New Directions, 1992)
Sonnets (Tender Buttons Press, 1989)
Midwinter Day (New Directions, 1982)
The Golden Book of Words (Angel Hair Books, 1978)
Ceremony Latin (Angel Hair Books, 1964)

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
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 went thru the turnstyle to the party
In the risqué penthouse that was not
A penthouse, I followed people but maybe
They weren't people, it was ethical
To follow them over the edges of the balloons
Until we found some tapsons to eat, heartily
We indulged & found the right move in relation
To the movements
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