“Could I Get Them To Be Me?”: Connection and Possibility in Bernadette Mayer’s Memory, Utopia, and Sonnets — Feminist Reading Group with Laura Henriksen

In a classroom at Naropa in 1978, Bernadette Mayer explained that while putting together her exhibition Memory, she wanted to find out if by moving her reader from behind a book to in front a photograph she took, with her recorded words in their ears, could she get that person to be her? This question addresses, among other things, how connections are made, how intimacy is possible, how information – memories, dreams, confessions, fantasies – is shared through poetry, and what difference it makes.

In this reading group we will follow these and other questions that arise as Mayer’s work guides us across boundaries between the quotidian and the historic, the private and the public, ourselves and everyone else, and in so doing explores how these boundaries are constructed and who they serve and who they don’t. We will think about what this might mean for us as poets and readers of poetry.

We’ll read from Memory, Utopia, and Sonnets, as well as look at Bernadette Mayer’s lists of journal ideas and experiments. We’ll also visit Canada Gallery’s exhibition of Memory, and do some of our own writing. PDFs will be provided!

Photo: Ted Roeder

Laura Henriksen

Laura Henriksen’s writing can be found in P-Queue, The Brooklyn Rail, Foundry, Jacket2, High Noon, and other places. She is the author of the chapbook Agata (Imp, 2017). Her new collaborative chapbook with Beka Goedde, Fluid Arrangements, was printed with Planthouse Gallery. She performed in the 2018 New Ear Festival and read in the 92nd St Y’s 2018 Tenth Muse event, selected by Eileen Myles. She is currently pursuing a Masters in American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center.