Interview with Bernadette Mayer at Coldfront

Coldfront has published a three-part interview with Bernadette Mayer by Stephanie Anderson.  The two poets have a lively and detailed conversation that covers a lot of ground, including Mayer’s editing of the landmark journal of poetry and conceptual art, 0 To 9, her friendship and collaboration with Clark Coolidge, and the genesis of her remarkable long poem Midwinter Day.

A couple of highlights:

  • about the poetry scene in New York in the 1960s: “The whole New York School scene just seemed flimsy to me. I didn’t like it.”
  • about her friendship with Joe Brainard: “Joe and I didn’t really talk that much. Neither of us liked to talk. So we’d just hang out together. I would see him in front of St. Mark’s church; he would come to the readings. He had terrible social anxiety disorders, and so did I, so we would just stand there together and smoke cigarettes. I never felt any need to talk to Joe. I mean, unless something vital had to be said.”
  • about giving poetry readings: when Anderson asks Mayer “Do you like giving readings?” she responds “I do now. I used to hate it. I used to be so nervous. I remember when I gave my first reading—that I had a twitch in my, uh, ass. And I kept thinking, “I wonder if anybody’s noticing this.” I mean, it was out of my control, obviously. [laughs] I never understood why other people weren’t nervous too. The most nervous person I ever saw was Jim Carroll when he would sing. When he first started singing… He used to just read poetry before then, and then all of a sudden he was singing, and he would be shaking, visibly. And it was painful to watch. I always enjoyed Jim’s singing, but I hated watching him sing.”

You can check out the whole three-part interview here, here, and here.

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