Bernadette Mayer – 2

Bernadette Mayer continuing from here

BM: I just have this one last book to talk about and then two discursive books, This is Sonnets, which is my most recent book and it’s really hard to talk about the structure of sonnets without saying that it has fourteen lines and things like that, but it is a book of sonnets of seventy-some-odd sonnets written sort of.. I was reading Ted Berrigan’s ..a transcript of a Ted Berrigan workshop on sonnets and he apologizes (as I do) for writing them. After all this work, right? described as experimental and thousands of other manuscripts not even mentioned here, we wind up writing sonnets? – is that what becomes of us? – I mean if this tent were air-conditioned? Maybe we’d write something else? But I wanted the… the one structural thing that I think.. well, there’s a couple of things actually, (none of the sonnets are really sonnets, so.. but to talk about that would take several hours). but I did want to mention that a bunch of them that are in the book were originally published in this form called Incident Report Sonnets and what this book is and what the sonnets are is.. a.. a  friend of mine works as a psychotherapist at a place in New York called the International Center for The Disabled and it’s a very… you know it’s a wonderful place that does great things for human beings. It’s a very bureaucratic place and they have a.. they pass around a lot of pieces of paper between offices and memos and among them are the “Incident Reports” (which means, like. somebody will fill out a report if.. if the coleus plant has been knocked on its side, you know, and when they don’t know exactly who was responsible for that. And they’re very nervous because they have a lot of patients who do wild things sometimes though, you know, and things are stolen and so.. and bookcases get turned around, and its very poltergeist-ish, you know. And so she would, very much against the rules, give me all the “Incident Reports” so that I could write poems based on them because they had.. because they had all the nature of poetry in them, sort of surrealistically described surrealistic events and everyday things So that became this book before this book became this book.

 And the last two books I’ll talk about are these discursive works and nicely sewn to the end with more talk about collaboration

This book The Handbook of Poetic Forms was written by nineteen of us and it was set up in a very wonderful way, where the editor (Ron Padgett) produced a list of all the poetic forms that he could think of that he would want to include in such a book and he sent it to all of us and said, “Check off the ones you want to write about”, you know, “or add more to the list”. And that’s how we did it. And then at the very end there were about ten poor poetic forms that nobody cared about (including the quatrain!) – so the editor and I divided those up between ourselves and did the horrible task of writing about them. But I thought it was funny to see, you know, what was left of the forms and thought it was relevant.

I wasn’t going to bring these discursive books but then in relation to the forms week (at Naropa) I thought it would be a good idea. This book (sic) is a collaboration between me and … It’s called The Art of Science Writing, and.. I wrote it with a fiction writer and playwright so we covered all the territory – and we had taught together. We had taught writing to science students, writing experiments to science students, and also taught writing to science, brilliant science students who just couldn’t write at all because no… (they had gone through the New York Public School system, and even though, you know, they, you know, they could build their own computers, they couldn’t fill out their college applications). So it was both things – it was like good students, good writers, good science writers and science students who were terrible writers and that’s how this book emerged. And as a collaboration I think it’s an interesting weird thing because we couldn’t write together, there was no way we could write together, so we just had to decide that each of us would write different parts of the book, you know, And then we’d have to be kind enough to each other to let each other emend the other’s parts or add to them, right? – it was a very difficult thing to do or to be patient about.

So that’s all I have to say really.  Any questions? Yes?

to be continued  – Q & A from this class will be featured tomorrow

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