Bernadette Mayer

Episode 6: Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer smiling at the camera with her hair in braids
Photo of Bernadette Mayer courtesy of Walker Art Center.

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Bernadette Mayer, whose poetry is included in the Rail Park, is the author of over thirty books, including Midwinter DayThe Golden Book of Words, UtopiaStudying Hunger, and Sonnets, to name just a few. Her most recent book is Work and Days.

G R G W R G R B R B R B W G W G R B B B B

Reflections on Bernadette Mayer’s ‘Studying Hunger Journals’

Bernadette Mayer visiting the Kelly Writers House on March 26, 2018.
Bernadette Mayer visiting the Kelly Writers House on March 26, 2018, for a Fellows reading. Photo by Kelly Writers House staff.

In the reflections that follow, I refer to media-archaeological reassessments of psychoanalytic theory as a way of opening American poet Bernadette Mayer’s Studying Hunger Journals (1972–1975) to new readings. If, as argued by the likes of Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Kittler, among others, psychoanalytic models of the human mind, from the “psychic apparatus” of Sigmund Freud to the schema of Jacques Lacan, are in fact underwritten by the media-technical conditions of their respective historical eras, then how might this insight shift perspectives on Mayer’s book, a project undertaken not only as an aid to psychoanalysis, but also at the dawn of the so-called Information Age? 

Jacques (Lacan) has wise words 4 me, it’s 2 good to B true, you’re 2 good to B’dette.  Bernadette Mayer, Studying Hunger Journals[1]

Saying it all is literally impossible. — Jacques Lacan, Television[2]

Mike Hennessey picks five PennSound recordings

PennSound podcast #54

Michael S. Hennessey.

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Michael Hennessey, one of the founding participants of the PennSound archive, and now its editor, stopped by the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House a few months back. He and Al Filreis played and discussed five recordings Mike chose from among the tens of thousands of recordings available in the archive: Bernadette Mayer, “Chocolate Poetry Sonnet”: LINK; Allen Ginsberg, “After Lalon”: LINK; Lew Welch, “A Round of English”: LINK; Harryette Mullen, “Sleeping with the Dictionary”: LINK; and Tuli Kupferberg, “The Hidden Dissuaders”: LINK.

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These poems come from Bernadette Mayer’s long-unpublished early book, The Old Style Is Finding out Something about a Whole New Set of Possibilities, which was written mostly from 1966 to 1970, when Mayer was between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

Day

              The nights let us have leaves

 

                       we have them           the leaves have let us

 

"The sun's in my eyes …"

                                            The

 

               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:

 

Auditoriums

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

            chevalier.

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

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