May 8, 2011

Bernadette Mayer, Day 3

Write a bestiary (a poem about real and mythical animals).

For further inspiration: 


I’ve used Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments a couple of times on this blog so I was overjoyed to discover that Drunken Boat is seeking submissions for a Bernadette Mayer Folio!  Sooo for the rest of the week I’m going to try to do one of her experiments every day. Here we go:

Write what is secret. Then write what is shared. Experiment with writing each in two different ways: veiled language, direct language.  (My own take on this would be to write in opposites. Write what is secret in direct language and write what is public in veiled language. Hence, the picture of a toothbrush being the exact opposite of what it should be.)

Do today’s experiment, do it well, and then submit it to Drunken Boat! More of Bernadette Mayer’s experiments can be found here.

And for further inspiration, this is one of my favorite passages from her book length poem, “Midwinter’s Day”.

“I’ve a wistful desire to stay outside

It’s not really cold,

And roll with the babies in the snow ’til I get older

Maybe we could be outside all the time like sex and lists

Of music to hear to remember to laugh at whatever’s forgotten

Doesn’t have to be gone out again for

Staying in

And sex is memory’s intensity

The year’s least day

Lost in the house of love’s safe locks,

Movements chance perfidy.


January 10, 2010

It’s been a full ten days into 2010 and I’ve been slackin’! Here goes, let’s do one every day.

This exercise comes from New York poet Bernadette Mayer.

Work with a number of objects, moving them around on a field or surface-describe their shifting relationships, resonance’s, associations. Or, write a series of poems that have only to do with what you see in the place where you most often write. Or, write a poem in each room of your house or apartment. Experiment with doing this in the home you grew up in, if possible.

I love the idea of forcing yourself to change your surroundings as you write, watching how the surroundings effect the story, or how they don’t.  When I first tried this exercise I got hung up on just one object, a bicycle, with its relation to myself.  As you can see, I didn’t really stick to the prompt. Here’s what I wrote and played around with:

“What I thought were tiny pink baby feet turned out to be pedals turning inside of my belly.

My baby was born a bicycle. I wear skirts and ride her to work. I lock her up and walk away. I remember how it felt when her pedals once turned inside of me. I ride her to the ocean on days off. Something’s not right with her now. I used to ride her up hills, now we have to walk together.

‘She’s lovely! Those handlebars! That shape!’

‘Thank you,’ I nod. I am cautious. When they address us, I hold her closer to me.

‘What’s your name, sweetie?’ They ask her in baby voices. But she is a baby, She can’t speak yet. I touch her seat proudly. Her name isn’t our secret anymore. Her father has left us and I have to share her name.

‘Motobecane,’ and out loud it sounds like every story that was precious to us. There is some betrayal here.

‘You don’t see too many of those around here anymore.’

Some days I wish I could just lose you completely, and I wish you’d left me with more than a fixed up garage sale bicycle. My fast baby with silver hair.

I remind myself of the true memory of her once inside of me.

Her kicks were pedals turning inside my belly.”

On writing about all things motherhood, I'm sorry, but I can't avoid thinking of Angelina Jolie.

For further reading, check out Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day. You can read most of it on google books.

See you tomorrow!