The Poetry Project


Piece of Cake with Marie Warsh & Lewis Warsh

From Station Hill Press: “Bernadette Mayer and Lewis Warsh wrote PIECE OF CAKE as a work of collaborative prose poetry, based on a process of each writing on alternate days in the course of August of 1976. It recounts the quotidian nuances of young, married-with-child life, the artistic path and citizenship in the town of Lenox, Massachusetts. It has the ‘I did this, I did that; of a New York School poetry text, as characterized by the poetry of Frank O’Hara, and is somewhat reminiscent of Mayer’s work STUDYING HUNGER JOURNALS, written not long before taking up PIECE OF CAKE. As Mayer writes on August 24th, ‘I will go just one step further and take the liberty of saying that writing this book is different, for me, so completely different from any other experience I have ever had with writing. Now, when I sit down to write I tremble with fear before the page, and from the reactions of my body I can tell that the possibility of finally telling everything, and telling it as if it were all a series of plain household events, is at last coming closer.’ This work is also distinguished as arguably the first significant male-female collaboration in 20th-century American poetry. Regarding the possible derivation of the work’s title, and also exemplary of the work’s tenor, is the start of Warsh’s entry of August 29: ‘I also recall getting up and eating a piece of left-over cake (a very sweet store-bought cake with green or possibly pinkish icing) and drinking a glass of milk at the kitchen window. Empty streets, no moon. Michael and Twinkie asleep on the floor of Bernadette’s room, Guy and Karen in mine, Bill on the couch in the living room. Marie in her crib. Everyone “dead to the world,” a phrase I dislike, what a full house.’ This book also includes a section of photographs taken within the family from the period of PIECE OF CAKE’s composition.”