Poetry News

First of Three-Part Interview With Bernadette Mayer Is at Coldfront

By Harriet Staff


At Coldfront, Stephanie Anderson interviews Bernadette Mayer! Part one of three installments is up today. "Throughout Anderson’s interview she discusses Mayer’s involvement with small press publishing, the Poetry Project, and Mayer’s poetry—all of which has forever altered the landscape of poetry." They also discuss 0 To 9, the magazine Mayer edited with Vito Acconci (like ya don'no). An excerpt:

SA: Speaking of words you don’t like, why don’t you like the word “performative?”

BM: Oh, performative! I hate that word! Performance, I don’t mind. Performative… it’s like a made-up, unnecessary word. It’s like you suddenly want to seem a certain way. That’s all I’ll say. [laughs]

SA: Do you feel like being an editor/publisher changed your status as a woman, or a woman working in the scene?

BM: [pause] You mean… in what way?

SA: I don’t know. I guess I’m asking what it was like to be a woman. [laughs]

BM: Oh! Well. When we were editing 0 To 9, I typed all the stencils. This was a very womanly reaction, or role to play. [laughs]

SA: Right. I feel like so much of the talk of typing stencils is, like, it’s in the domestic sphere, it’s at home. But I guess then you have to go find a mimeograph machine somewhere. You guys were going to some place in New Jersey, right?

BM: Well, we did for the magazine, because we were using Ed Bowes’s father’s mimeograph machine in his law office.

SA: Did people help?

BM: Oh yeah, we had to have helpers. As soon as we ran off the pages we had to collate them, because we only had one night to do it all.

SA: Was there an army of young poets to help?

BM: Well, there wasn’t an army though; my sister helped, I can’t remember who else helped… Ed helped… Hmm. We must have had other people. We had at least four people. We didn’t want to have so many people that it would… it was a very small space. So it would seem too crowded.

SA: You didn’t want it to turn into a party?

BM: Well, there was that aspect of it too, but since we just had that one night, we were very covetous of our time. It could have turned into a party I guess. [chuckles]

SA: Because Maureen Owen talks about the mimeo collation parties for Telephone being kind of…

BM: Yeah, they were fun!

SA: Did you guys have release parties for 0 To 9?

BM: No, no.

SA: It just got distributed?

BM: Yeah. We would pack it up, and send it out pretty much as soon as it was printed. To various bookstores and people, individual people.

SA: Alice [Notley] talks about sending CHICAGO to all the people she admired and wanted to be friends with. [laughs]

BM: Yeah, exactly! [laughs] It was fun. It was fun to have the magazine finished.

SA: I can imagine. Would you turn around right away and start a new one?

BM: Well, we’d start gathering work for a new one. I mean, some work we had leftover from previous issues. So. Definitely. I don’t know how people do a lot of issues—like, of The World there were a lot of issues. I don’t think I would even want to have that stamina.

SA: 0 To 9 petered out after what, six issues?

BM: Six. Yeah.

SA: In the introduction,3 both of you say like you don’t remember deciding to stop, it just kind of stopped…

BM: It just kind of ended; I think Vito’s reluctant to explain that he just completely lost interest. And I couldn’t see any point in continuing on, because I was doing all these other things too, so… We still had no place to publish, though. [laughs] So it didn’t work, as you might say.

SA: Did Hannah [Weiner]’s work get more attention through 0 To 9?

BM: Gee, you know, I have no idea. I don’t think 0 To 9 had that kind of effect on anybody. You think?

SA: I don’t know, but… because it’s now reprinted by Ugly Duckling in that big beautiful book, I think people think of its impact as being really important.

BM: Yeah. Well it’s much more important now than it ever was then. [chuckles]

Read it all at Coldfront.

Originally Published: March 27th, 2014