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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: Brawl & Jag (W. W. Norton, 2016), 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 is the recipient of many honors, including a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship. She has taught at Amherst College and Baruch College, and she now teaches at Skidmore College and in the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Bennington College. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.


Selected Bibliography

Brawl & Jag (W. W. Norton, 2016)
Romanticism (W. W. Norton, 2009)
Swan Electric (2002); Psalms (1995)
Blackbird Bye Bye (Random House, 1989)

Prose
Pirate Jenny (W. W. Norton, 1990)

Tis Late

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

April Bernard is the author of Brawl & Jag (W. W. Norton, 2016). She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she teaches at Skidmore College and in the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Bennington College.

by this poet

poem

You insist
that the world belongs to a stony-hearted goat-god—
how every time we act, we enact
his vileness; how this is no
ecstasy, just a bad labored joke.

Your body in spasm
longs to strip the flesh, but if you do
there will be nothing left but the busy
bone-clatter of

2
poem
That voice—from the tv—that voice,
thick smoky cheese, or, no—
dark as burnt flan, sweet,
venison-sweet in the heavy smoke
of a tavern hearth, and hot as brandy.
I served that voice for months,
in a theater on 13th near Third
where losers are the ones who crack first.
I gave you azured hours, nights,
and
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