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“First Show Hotline” by Bernadette Mayer

Out the somber window that shows
Hibernation trees, the water pump, the road
Nothing falling from the gray sky yet
The room I’m in’s too clean, the fire’s failed
I’m doing the French fries on the top of the stove
The mail’s failed to come, the turkey had no liver
But it may work to write this poem unless
It gets stuck like a car by the creek
The creeks are over the top, be wary

Of them, of getting mail from a bank
And a flyer from the Family Dollar store
In which everything is more than a dollar
Except sardines, I don’t even have a bank
Account but I saw a rainbow in the woods once
When the sun got low enough to shine
Under the earth’s cloud cap, I thought
That’s not a bad deal on dish detergent

About the Poet

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer (1945-2022) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and received her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in 1967. She is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry. From 1972 to 1974, Mayer and conceptual artist Vito Acconci edited the journal 0 TO 9, and in 1977 she established United Artists Press with the poet Lewis Warsh. She has taught writing workshops at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City for many years, and she served as the Poetry Project’s director. Perhaps most widely known for her 1971 conceptualist multimedia project Memory, which was published in book form in 1976, and her epic poem about a daily routine, “Midwinter Day” (1982). Mayer’s most recent books include Eating The Colors of A Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (Station Hill Press); Sonnets: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition (Tender Buttons Press), which was nominated for the Firecracker Awards by The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses; and Milkweed Smithereens (New Directions Press, 2022). This poem appears in her 2017 collection Works and Days (New Directions Press), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Related Events

Just Buffalo Literary Center and the University at Buffalo Poetics Program will join together to honor the life and work of poet Bernadette Mayer, who died this past November, with two community events on Friday, April 14.

  • From 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the UB Poetry Collection, 480 Capen Hall, UB North Campus, a panel discussion on Mayer’s work will feature presentations by close friends and collaborators Lee Ann Brown and Laynie Browne, along with Mayer scholars Katie Naughton, and Joey Yearous-Algozin. An archival exhibit of Mayer’s work from the UB Poetry Collection will accompany the program.
  • From 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Just Buffalo Literary Center, 468 Washington St., 2nd floor, in Buffalo will host a community reading of favorite poems either written by Mayer or inspired by her work. Both events are free and open to the public.

View Event Details

About “Poem of the Week”

The “Poem of the Week” feature is curated by literary legacy awardee R.D. Pohl.

R.D. (Bob) Pohl is a poet, writer, editor, and literary and cultural critic based in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1973 to 1981, where he studied language philosophy and philosophy of science with Newton Garver, Charles Lambros, and Peter Hare as an undergraduate, before shifting his attentions to poetry and literature, studying with Lionel Abel, Diane Christian, Robert Creeley, Carl Dennis, Raymond Federman, Leslie Fiedler, and John Logan of the now legendary UB English Department of the late 1970’s as a graduate student.

In 1983, he began contributing book reviews to The Buffalo News, and in 1986, assumed the curatorship of the poetry feature from its founder William L. Morris, began producing its weekly literary calendar, and writing the “Literary Notes” column and, later, its digital successor as part of the newspaper’s ArtsBeat blog. The Buffalo News “Poem of the Week,” the longest continuously running poetry feature in any regional newspaper in North America, ceased its 46-year run in August of 2022.

His current projects include 95 Theses on Digital Culture, a long episodic novel based on his father’s experiences as a reluctant German soldier in World War II, and a memoir of coming of age in the Buffalo arts and literary scene of the 1970s and early 1980s.

In relaunching the Buffalo-area “Poem of the Week” in partnership with Just Buffalo Literary Center, he hopes to continue and expand upon his community building work of the past four decades with the hope of making the Buffalo poetry scene more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming to the expression of many voices and poetic practices.