PLYMOUTH — April Bernard is a teacher, a novelist, an essayist and most famously, a poet. She grew up in New England, and was educated at Harvard, following which she moved to New York City to work in publishing. Her most recent collection of poetry is “Romanticism,” published in 2009.
The Eagle Pond Authors Series at Plymouth State University will host Bernard in a free reading at 7 p.m. March 16 in the Smith Recital Hall at the Silver Center for the Arts. Poet John Ashbery said “April Bernard’s voice is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but the wilderness is our populated, all too familiar one, and her psalms are striped with modern despair, loving and knowing.”
Bernard has taught widely and was for many years a magazine and book editor in New York City. As Director of Creative Writing, she is a member of the English Department faculty at Skidmore College, and is also on the faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars. Her honors include a Guggenheim award, the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, a Whitney Humanities Fellowship at Yale University, a Sidney Harman Fellowship, and the Stover Prize. The Whitman Award judge said, “The wit here is corrosive, the ear faultless, the raised voice one to which we cannot but listen.”
“I tend to allow my poems to generate their own form,” Bernard told Reb Livingston of Post Road.
“Once it’s on the page, I start to see a shape to it and I say organically this wants to be a poem in triplets or this wants to be a poem with really long lines. As I’m revising it I allow it to be the thing it seems to want to be. But it pretty much has to be generated from within. I would say that it’s not very conscious, it’s really much more an intuitive thing. Although I do actually write formal poems as exercises when I am stuck,” she said.
She told Livingston, “ … a poem is capturing a moment of absolute intense emotion. …It becomes a means of conveyance to hand the poem to somebody else because you can’t just hurl the emotion at them. You have to give it to them in a form that is stable and that won’t explode. It’s like putting dynamite in a nice box and then you hand the box, which is the poem, to the other person and the other person has to unpack it. If you’re lucky, they will enjoy the unwrapping. Part of the purposeful difficulty of the poem is to prolong the unwrapping process and to prolong the expectation.”
Bernard has published three other poetry collections: Blackbird Bye Bye, Psalms, and Swan Electric. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The Nation and Slate.
Free tickets for the Eagle Pond Authors Series are available at the Silver Center Box Office 535-2787 or (800) 779-3869, and are highly recommended. The series is presented with generous support from the Follett Higher Education Group (PSU Bookstore).
Now in its 16th year, the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series is a tribute to Donald Hall, one of the nation’s most beloved poets and authors. Hall remains the heart and soul of this series and is instrumental in bringing nationally and internationally revered poets to the PSU campus.
Hall will be on hand to introduce Bernard and both will stay after the reading for an author’s reception and book signing. Information about the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series is online at silver.plymouth.edu.
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