poem index


April Bernard

Printer-friendly version
April Bernard

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)

Pirate Jenny (W. W. Norton, 1990)

by this poet


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

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

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