Monday, June 16, 2008

"Incandescent War Poem Sonnet" by Bernadette Mayer

Just back from the National Poetry Foundation conference on "Poetry and the 1970s"--another incredibly stimulating time with a horde of scholars, poets, poet-scholars, most of which have affiliations with the alternative/experimental poetries that the NPF has published and promoted (the Pound/Zukofsky/Williams line, the New American Poets as represented by Don Allen's famous 1960s anthology, and Olson/Creeley and the Black Mountain School in particular). One of the half-dozen poets featured at the conference, Bernadette Mayer read while sitting down, in the Colby Museum of Art, because she had recently had a fall and broken her neck. Still, she was spirited and funny, wondering if Elvis were also in the crowd of luminaries. Here's a poem of hers that Halvard Johnson happened to pass through his email list, and, given its title and concerns, I thought I'd pass it along to you.

Incandescent War Poem Sonnet

Even before I saw the chambered nautilus
I wanted to sail not in the us navy
Tonight I'm waiting for you, your letter
At the same time his letter, the view of you
By him and then by me in the park, no rhymes
I saw you, this is in prose, no it's not
Sitting with the molluscs & anemones in an
Empty autumn enterprise baby you look pretty
With your long eventual hair, is love king?
What's this? A sonnet? Love's a babe we know that
I'm coming up, I'm coming, Shakespeare only stuck
To one subject but I'll mention nobody said
You have to get young Americans some ice cream
In the artificial light in which she woke

--Bernadette Mayer

fr. Sonnets [New York: Tender Buttons, 1989]

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