Consistent throughout in its embittered tone and its focus on disillusion and failed love, Bernard's articulate fourth collection could please connoisseurs with its panoply of modes and forms: epigrams in an almost classical style, scenes from a nonexistent, racy Victorian novel ("Under the Rose/ by Langley Boisvert"), arias from nonexistent operas, translations from nonexistent German poems and a brace of unrhymed sonnets. Bernard has always blended sadness with literary sophistication, and after the disappointingly earnest autobiography of Swan Electric(2003) she returns to some of her strengths here. The troubles Bernard describes are finally less political than existential, familial, personal. Single poems remember the lives and the deaths of poets she knew (Jason Shinder, Aga Shahid Ali), but the whole collection turns her attention more often to the collapse, the near-death, within parts of herself. "Love breaks me like a corn cake/ in a boy's mouth," says one poem. A prose poem uncovers an even more striking image for Bernard's combination of raw pain and canny reserve: "When I was under snow," she writes, "it took a lot to persuade me to dig out, and now and then I think of that ice burrow with real longing." (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Romanticism: Poemsby April Bernard
"In Romanticism, the untrammeled Romantic in us struggles for expression in Art. The winner-no question-is the reader."—New Haven ReviewRomanticism explores and challenges the central ideas of high Romanticism: the tragedy and gallantry of the individual’s life journey, the appeal of revolution and violence, the beckoning forces/p>/em>/em>
"In Romanticism, the untrammeled Romantic in us struggles for expression in Art. The winner-no question-is the reader."—New Haven ReviewRomanticism explores and challenges the central ideas of high Romanticism: the tragedy and gallantry of the individual’s life journey, the appeal of revolution and violence, the beckoning forces of Nature, and the estrangement from but constant longing for God. Here is a powerful argument for the primacy of strong emotion.
So I offered a bargain:
All of it, the books, the papers,
and whatever is still brewing in my teapot head—
All of this, I said, I will surrender
if only I may have
the home that I have seen in his face.
The answer came at once: No.
What lies you tell, and call them love. To view text with line endings as poet intended, please set font size to the smallest size on your device.
In her latest collection, Bernard (Swan Electric) confronts the fallacies of romanticism-that the world can and should be known through emotion, that God and love are the ultimate goodness. She challenges those notions by carefully crafting her own fictions about romance, manners, war, and what lies beneath, before wondering "if my heart courts pain/ because it aims for immortality, something grander/ than I can imagine." Bernard challenges readers with swift observations about love and the lie, perhaps, that it conquers all. In other poems, she fabricates a heroine and traces her life through an invented romantic novel, where readers discover that love "is a sort of domestic helium" that carries her. In other pieces, Bernard explores romanticism through a fictitious opera in which her poems sing traditional Italian arias or cry to punk rock. Bernard asks the questions, then challenges her answers: "Division of some sort prevails at all times. Take longing, soul,/ ...My old soul/ fights my new soul that fights/ the soul about to be born." Highly recommended for contemporary poetry collections.
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Meet the Author
April Bernard is the author of four previous poetry collections and two novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. She teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.
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