Swan Electric: Poems

Swan Electric: Poems

by April Bernard
     
 

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"Bernard has written a gorgeous, tough, haunting book."—Frank Bidart
April Bernard's idiosyncratic and profoundly emotional voice combines flights of fancy, moral sternness, and wit in broadly explorative poems—from a memoir sequence about the East Village in the 1980s, to "disheveled" sonnets of self-interrogation, to darkly comic hallucinations.

Overview

"Bernard has written a gorgeous, tough, haunting book."—Frank Bidart
April Bernard's idiosyncratic and profoundly emotional voice combines flights of fancy, moral sternness, and wit in broadly explorative poems—from a memoir sequence about the East Village in the 1980s, to "disheveled" sonnets of self-interrogation, to darkly comic hallucinations.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“A marvelous poet.”
W. S. Merwin
“A poet of obvious gifts and power and ambition, unsparing and brilliant.”
The New Yorker
At the heart of Bernard's latest collection is a series of poems about living in the East Village in the nineteen-eighties. The series, named for a Kurt Weill song, forms a sort of loose-leaf memoir, and includes just the personalities we might expect -- poets, musicians, and art critics, most of them thin and poorly dressed. In "Dial-an-Edict," the speaker and her cohort live like gentry in a dull provincial town; dispatching wisdom via telephone, they "pretended to know the (one or two) things we did not." Bernard misses none of the irony intrinsic to her youthful ideals, yet she also manages to distill the pain of a hopeful, uncertain time. Her characters struggle to remake the world, even if, in the end, it is only "the world of our friends and their friends."
Publishers Weekly
Throughout this heterogeneous second collection, Bernard's speaker works hard to read significance into personal encounters and recollections, ranging from vague, internal musings to memories of the East Village in the 1980s to imagined encounters with dead writers, celebrities and animals, among others. In the opening poems, Bernard's speakers circumnavigate a generally somber internal landscape, often using the natural world as a point of reference. Sea, sky, sun, wind, light and snow make frequent appearances, and seem to occasion some of the book's most vague and tortuous musings: "How often is too often, what if this heat tore through me constant as the sky I tear apart...." Quite often, the poems' speakers seem frustrated or even bored by their own interiority ("...oh it's just the same old dream of melting"). Similar problems haunt the East Village sequence, in which an evocative, though essentially familiar cast of characters the "squatter," the "lover of a famous poet" play out the routines and pretensions of countercultural life, but rarely offer the reader either a surprising insight or a startlingly good story. In the book's final two sections, Bernard seems to reach for an imaginative or fantastical escape from the biographical and its attendant ennui; the result is that speakers encounter Jimmy Stewart or the dancing bear from Captain Kangaroo. Occasionally though, the freewheeling imagination seems poised to succeed, with flashes of music and humor that could well suggest strategies for future work: "Seek error. Forgive soot. Let the lion find his own way about the house, and provide him a swinging door. Feed the lion." (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393325089
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/19/2003
Pages:
88
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)

What People are saying about this

W.S. Merwin
A poet of obvious gifts and power and ambition, unsparing and brilliant.

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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