A career-spanning bouquet of poems by the peerless and inimitable Bernadette Mayer
Milkweed Smithereens gathers lively, wickedly smart, intimate, and indelible Bernadette Mayer poems: the volume ranges from brand-new nature poems, pastiches, sequences, epigrams, and excerpts from her Covid Diary and Second World of Nature to early poems and sonnets found in the attic or rooted out in the UC San Diego archive. The world of nature and the pandemic loom large, as in her “The Lobelias of Fear”:
…but how will we, still alive, socialize
in the winter? wrapped in bear skins
we’ll sit around pot-bellied stoves eating
the lobelias of fear left over from desperation,
last summer’s woodland sunflowers and bee balm remind us of black
cherries eaten in a hurry
while the yard grows in the moonlight
shrinking like a salary …
About the Author
Called “a consummate poet” by Robert Creeley, Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1945. A most prolific poet, her first book was published at the age of twenty-three. Many texts later she continues to write progressive poetry from her home in East Nassau, New York. For many years Mayer lived and worked on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where she was the Director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project from 1980-1984. Bernadette Mayer has received grants and awards from PEN American Center, The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, the NEA, The Academy of American Poets, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Mayer writes the kind of nonsense that makes sense, and sense that is nonsense: I can’t think of a better catering device in these topsy-turvy times.
— Daniel Wenger - The New Yorker
A poet of extraordinary inventiveness, erotic energy and challenge, and ironic intelligence.
— Michael Palmer
A consummate poet: would that all genius were as generous.
— Robert Creeley
Bernadette Mayer is one of the most original writers of her generation… All her work is full of brilliant observation, humorous and sometimes astounding conclusions, and amazing juxtapositions inspired by linguistic associations, patterns of movement, chance, mathematics, whim, and imagination.
— Michael Lally - The Washington Post
As an offering of selected works removed from all context, Mayer’s newest poetry collection reads like a glimpse into a vivacious mind rankled by incessant stillness and external distractions....Bracing and carnal, Mayer provides an idiosyncratic way to acknowledge changes in contemporary consciousness while framing her work in a new and dynamic light.
— J. Howard Rosier - Vulture
Mayer quotes Vladimir Nabokov, in The Gift: “I seem to remember my future works, although I don’t even know what they will be about.” In its newness, its remembrance, and its diaristic now, Milkweed Smithereens is a doggedly gorgeous expression of that peculiar, clairvoyant temporality.
— Brian Dillon - 4Columns
Mayer’s poems, like O’Hara’s, are something else: as gorgeous, sad, elated, horny, distracted, coy, angry, kinetic, and complex as people.
— Daniel Poppick - The Yale Review