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Falling in Love with Bernadette Mayer

The actual article is unavailable. What follows is its footnotes.

0. I like that my days of late are like Mayer’s days in 1978…Divided into six parts. Mine are dark-sky morning, yellow-kitchen morning, day, dinner, rocking chair, thinking. Today I gave over the thinking part, and a lot of the dark-sky morning part, to thinking about why in the last week or so, I have thought to myself every few hours, “But what would Bernadette Mayer do?”

1. Here is the excerpt from Guddings own footnote that mentions Mayer:

I must say that many poets who have written from a mode of high seriousness (and I’m talking since like early 20c–Pound, Eliot (not kitty cat Eliot)) do, I find, read as melodramatic. Melodrama, as we all know, occurs when there’s no real (or sufficient) rationale for the emotion; it seems outsized and inappropriate.

And such is the case with the general palette of emotional responses used by many contemporary writers: We witness a bizarre collection of cultural responses to the suffering inherent to life as a body of knee-jerk emotive reactions: nostalgia, self-pity, the unconvincingly bittersweet lyric. In fact, the older I get and the more used I become to the idea that I’m going to die, the more melodrama I keep spotting in art, movies, tv, poetry. There are of course hundreds of refulgent exceptions: A few of whom I’ve re-read recently are Joanne Kyger and Bernadette Mayer.

2. See Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millenium: “I hope to have shown that there is such a thing as a lightness of thoughtfulness, just as we all know that there is a lightness of frivolity. In fact, thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy.”

3. A violent hot sand-laden wind on the deserts of Arabia and North Africa.

4. “* Write a work gazing into a mirror without using the pronoun I.”

5. In a lecture on the structure of her various books, Mayer said of Moving: “I set myself the task of not writing as much as possible. Only writing when I absolutely felt compelled. Never writing in the way most of us do: well I have to write; or I haven’t written enough; or I should write every day. Not doing anything like that, but only that which seems to come from something other than the self.”

6. Back to Gudding’s footnote: “Like Kyger and Mayer, Whitman’s emotive moves have deep authority precisely because his emotions are not Self so much as they are about self-in-relation.”

7. In today’s New York Times review of the new Donald Barthelme biography: “Barthelme countered that a ???mysterious shift . . . takes place as soon as one says that art is not about something but is something,” when the literary text “becomes an object in the world rather than a commentary upon the world.’”

8. Somebody once said that in this way, Mayer was like Beckett, only with babies. Not really, I am grossly paraphrasing. But I like what I think I remember of that endorsement that I now cannot find.

9. Or, as Mayer writes in “An Ancient Degree,” “A field is a useful article with which to tell the time”

10. To be honest, only the parts of Midwinter Day that can be read online“because one of her books is checked out of this library and the other library is closed on Sundays.

11. And as she wrote it mostly in an entire day, December 22nd, 1978, I plan to read it in its real entirety, library problems or no, this year: December 22, 2009, without a clock, only a field with which to tell the time, a field, the ground almost covered smooth in snow, with a few weeds and stubble showing last.

12. Compare that line to this sentence by Norman Bryson, in Vision and Painting: “[The] body may be eclipsed by its own representations; it may disappear, like a god, in the abundance of its attributes; but it is outward, from its invisible musculature, rather than inwards, from its avid gaze, that all images flow.”

13. This poem, finally, reminds me of the Werner Herzog movie, Encounters at the End of the World. She is swimming beneath the ice shelf:


14. Also, perhaps I was primed for Bernadette Mayer because I have of late become a fan of icebergs on Facebook and it is my most treasured page and blissfully, almost never any new activity.

15. * Write a work gazing into a mirror without using the pronoun I. Then I could write (I couldn’t write but I could write with the unself-consciousness of) “First you turn to me.” Though elsewhere on this website it is written “(if) only hesitation is real ecstasy“” If this is true, then elsewhere on my computer I am already writing the longest, most beautiful sentence I can imagine and I am not ending it, I–

16. It’s not that I want precedents for my poems–that’s the only thing I don’t need precedents for. I think! It is seeming that it is more about how to live.