Bernadette Mayer

Thirteen poems by Bernadette Mayer

These poems come from Bernadette Mayer’s long-unpublished early book, The Old Style Is Finding out Something about a Whole New Set of Possibilities, which was written mostly from 1966 to 1970, when Mayer was between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five. Unlike the majority of the poems in the book, they were never published in any form until their appearance in Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (Station Hill Press, 2015), which we coedited. When Mayer began The Old Style, she was a student at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, taking poetry classes from Bill Berkson.

15 Times

Maybe when time was and made me the time

many times could we and in time when the time came

noticed that and gave you the time of and left him the

left it open for any time and got back on time and how

the time he and served out the time and never noticed

covered up that time and said we’d see some time and kept


              The nights let us have leaves


                       we have them           the leaves have let us


"The sun's in my eyes …"



               Sun’s  in  my  eyes  and


Split Decision

My partner and I were hunting cougars in

Colorado’s Book Cliffs. Our hounds treed

a cat at dusk, but some were baying near

a cave. I leaned into cave and struck match

right in face of a bear. Though supposedly

hibernating, big bear and her cub were not.

Big one walloped me, nearly breaking my

The General

Later in secret

Later in secret the general

Bends to remove something

To lean against a fresco.

The rules which run

Around the walls

The walls of court

Determine a course,

Declare if he had not:



To range in the war was corruption, an error, a snow.

            A snow over Rome. Near the garage to sew and to

            sing — a crystal, inherent, and a wink to the


To range in the Roman manner was to manage it raw.

A day like any other (PoemTalk #85)

James Schuyler, 'February'

from left: Erica Kaufman, Bernadette Mayer, Al Filreis & Julia Bloch—during a live interactive webcast that preceded this PoemTalk session by a few hours.


Bernadette Mayer, Julia Bloch, and erica kaufman joined Al Filreis to discuss James Schuyler’s poem “February.” Schuyler read the poem at the Dia Art Foundation in New York on November 15, 1988. John Ashbery gave the introduction, emphasizing how reluctant Schuyler was to read in public. He noted: “As far as I know, this is the first public [reading] he has ever given.” One can tell from the tone of Ashbery’s remarks that he felt that he and the audience were in for a rare treat, a savoring for which years of waiting were worthwhile.

Mayer and Good

From left to right: erica kaufman, Julia Bloch, Bernadette Mayer and Philip Good — at the Kelly Writers House, October 21, 2014, on a day when Mayer participated in a live webcast conversation with participants in the free, open online course called ModPo, recorded a session of PoemTalk on "February" by James Schuyler, and gave a reading with Philip Good. The recording of the webcast discussion is available here. The recording of the Mayer/Good reading is available here. The events are fully described here.

Hannah Weiner, Joseph Ceravolo, and Bernadette Mayer from Tape Poems, ed. Eduardo Costa and John Perreault (1969)

One of the many treasures at UbuWeb is an MP3 of this pioneering 4-track audio magazine. I've pulled singles of three of the contributions:

Hannah Weinier: 3 Poems: (5:43): MP3

Bernadette Mayer: Complete Music of Webern, A Movie (4:56): MP3

Joseph Ceravolo: Poems and Background (2:46): MP3

Thanks to Patrick Durgin, whose research on Hannah Weiner led me to this recording. 

Ubu gives the presecient liner notes:

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