Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer. Station Hill (Midpoint, dist.), $39.95 (450p) ISBN 978-1-58177-135-0
Collecting roughly 20 years of the earliest, out-of-print poems from Mayer (The Helens of Troy, NY), this collection provides a definitive retrospective on her body of writing prior to the publication of her landmark book-length poem, Midwinter's Day, in 1982. Even Mayer's early poems possess her characteristic ambition, tireless eye, sense of humor, and dedication to experimentation, leaving one with the feeling that she was a fully formed poet from birth. Such traits manifest themselves movingly in her longest poems, where she asserts herself as a roving cataloger of her universe: "Follow the curb on 52nd St. until you see a policeman/ follow a woman until you see a man. spill something. darken the white line on an avenue until the time is up. drop papers with information on them from a helicopter." Yet Mayer's shorter lyric pieces often outshine the dexterous longer works by focusing on her emotional vulnerability and toughness: "Be strong Bernadette," she tells herself, "Nobody will ever know/ I came here for a reason/ Perhaps there is a life here/ Of not being afraid of your own heart beating/ Do not be afraid of your own heart beating." Historic, wide-ranging, and triumphant, this book is a must-have document for poetry aficionados. (July)
Reviewed on: 10/05/2015
Release date: 07/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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