On Bernadette Mayer’s “Exhilarating” New Book, “Works and Days”

As part of its “Definitive List of Must-Read Poetry Books from 2016 (So Far),” Flavorwire has posted a short review of Bernadette Mayer’s new book, Works and Days (which is about to appear from New Directions), by Jonathan Sturgeon.

Sturgeon notes that Mayer’s book is obviously in dialogue with Hesiod’s ancient work of the same name: “In keeping with the title (and theme) of ‘the original’ Works and Days, Mayer includes calendar poems that double as wry, poignant notes on her life and condition.”

He concludes with quite a rave:

The experience of reading Works and Days is exhilarating; it’s like encountering a new, never-before-seen contemporary artwork you know will stand the test of time — like it must have felt to see [Mayer’s landmark work] Memory in 1972. Or maybe it is this. It reaches back to the beginning of art by way of its political economy of the everyday, its honest humor about the ridiculousness of the writer’s experience in 21st century life, its emphasis on solidarity with the exploited. There is no other book from this year I’d more like to read again.

If you’re interested in how Bernadette Mayer’s poetry explores the “political economy of the everyday,” please check out my just-published book, Attention Equals Life: The Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture, which has a chapter on Mayer’s poetics of everyday life.

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