Bernadette Mayer

'You' and the poetics of slow violence

Reading Jose Antonio Villarán's 'Open Pit: A Story About Morococha and Extractivism in the Américas'

'Open Pit' book cover.

Jose Antonio Villarán’s Open Pit asks how to write a catastrophe whose immanence is dissipated across space and time. Tracking the poet’s research on transnational extractivism in the Peruvian mining town of Morococha, Open Pit essays a poetics of Rob Nixon’s “slow violence,” catastrophes (being products of human choices) which play out across scales that defy a pinpointed “there.” Writing in Davis, CA, to a young son in Philadelphia about research in Morococha, Peru, Villarán sets a network of places as actants, grafted onto variable patterns of placement on the page, carving tracks of space for the words of people interviewed in Morococha, descriptive language on the products of research, and autobiographical first- and second-person verse.

Open Pit was published by Counterpath Press in 2022. The Spanish Tajo Abierto will be published in June 2023 by Álbum del Universo Bakterial in Lima, Peru.

“I want to be there with you and i’m not”

Minds of winter

A review of 'Dead Winter' by Matvei Yankelevich

Photo of Matvei Yankelevich (right) courtesy of Yankelevich.

Dead Winter (along with Matvei Yankelevich’s chapbook From A Winter Notebook) has been culled from a long project whose intention Yankelevich writes, is “to reassemble winter’s / memory.”[1] This description is both tantalizing and ambiguous.

Jocelyn Saidenberg and Eric Sneathen

A conversation

Photo of Jocelyn Saidenberg (left) by Kari Orvik; photo of Eric Sneathen (right) by Matt Sussman.

Note: Jocelyn Saidenberg’s most recent poetry collection Kith & Kin (The Elephants, 2018) tracks the author’s yearlong attempt to surface those deemphasized aspects of language and living. What has been paraphrased, forgotten, or disappeared from the everyday returns in Saidenberg’s poetry, which mixes together the little deaths of houseplants with a politics of refusal (however fleeting) and an enduring grief for a friend.

In the diamond at the heart of the moon: Sixty-nine notes on the US elections, part 1

by Sam Truitt

Photo of a photo from a wall in Omar Perez’s apartment in Havana

Sam Truitt
In memory of David Graeber (1961–2020)

1.   two three four … / what are we fighting for?
2.   Is poetry’s role to keep open a human possibility until all may join? Isn’t that what the confounders sought?
3.   “Election” means something like the state or act of picking out or choosing.
4.   An election illuminates the space between us.
5.   “Election” shares the same cognate (Latin eligere) with “elite,” meaning “chosen people,” the adjectival use of which Byron introduced into English in a passage in Don Juan (Canto 13) recounting a party:

With other Countesses of Blank — but rank;
At once the lie and the elite of crowds;
Who pass like water filterd in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds …

American poetry and political defeat

by Michael Ruby

IN THE first election year that mattered to me, 1968, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, my country killed hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia, and Richard Nixon was elected president. In the decades that followed, I have always been unhappy with the leadership and direction of this country, usually very unhappy. 


Michael Ruby

 I was born a believer in peace. I say fight for the right.
Be a martyr and live. Be a coward and die.

— Susan B. Anthony speaking
in Gertrude Stein’s
“The Mother of Us All”

Episode 6: Bernadette Mayer

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


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.


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.


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

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