cover image Midwinter Day

Midwinter Day

Bernadette Mayer. New Directions Publishing Corporation, $12.95 (119pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1406-3

First published in 1982 by Turtle Island, this book-length poem makes an excellent introduction to Mayers work, and its re-release signals a growing recognition of her achievement. Written about one day in her life, the book uses both long, elegant lines (occasionally and humorously rhyming) and prose poetry (reminiscent of her works from the 70s like Studying Hunger and Memory) to prove that the day like the dream has everything in it. Cataloging this everything, as it comes out ofand vanishes back intothe quotidian routine of buying food, going to the library, cooking for children, visiting friends and writing, becomes an occasion for Mayers characteristic enthusiasm, inventiveness and brilliance. With conscious nods to UlyssesStately you came to town in my opening dream, Mayer divides the day into six (rather than 18) sections, reversing Joyce by beginning with dreams. Events in the poems presentMarie says she wants to read a book before I fix the rest of dinnerfold into the writers own past (car accidents, early relationships, family history), the pasts of writers like Margaret Fuller and Hawthorne, and into encyclopedic speculations about art making, scientific discoveries and travel to the North Pole. It is Mayers unexpected and various ways of linking personal experience and public historySo when I write of love I write of/ Binding referendums, bankruptcy intent,/ Industrials, utilities and sales/ The petitions of a citizens groupthat make the book such an important example of her own influential experimentation, and such a thorough pleasure. (May)