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Midwinter Day

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  268 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Midwinter Day," as Alice Notley noted, "is an epic poem about a daily routine." A poem in six parts, Midwinter Day takes us from awakening and emerging from dreams through the whole day-morning, afternoon, evening, night-to dreams again: ". . . a plain introduction to modes of love and reason/Then to end I guess with love, a method to this winter season/Now I've said this ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by New Directions (first published June 28th 1982)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
241st out of 1,571 books — 1,732 voters
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Modern Poetry/ Poetics List
44th out of 70 books — 27 voters

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My Review, as poem:
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ORIGINAL REVIEW (Oct. 29, 2013): Superficially speaking, Midwinter Day is almost everything I hate about contemporary poetry: free-versed, loquacious, banal (and indulgently so)... so on and so forth. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Bernadette Mayer's syntactically-scrambled sentences, when read a little more closely, have a tendency for exploding outwards in waves of heavy, focused meaning. Perhaps the comparison's a slight stretch, but it's kind of like how you can take almost an ...more
Mark Desrosiers
A calm sentence like a story. I used to know a man who had a dog and I followed their steps in the snow, I got into the habit of walking just as far as they did every day. At the same time I also knew a woman whose husband had seven guns. I used to know a woman who's the woman who married Neil Simon. I like the woman who used to work in the Lenox market, she never wears boots, then she retired...

I can't go on. I know Mayer's heart was in the right place -- and I'll probably receive a Christmas l
A classic example of Bernadette Mayer's interest in time and perception. In an attempt to write down every thought she has in a single day, Bernadette ends up getting sidetracked down different alleys of memory and belief, her personal life intrudes on the purity of her mental life, and the two blend together into a sort of philosophical soup. Similar to Studying Hunger and Memory, this book has a somewhat more lyrical bent. I might add that this work is infinitely more satisfying than any of Ke ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Vicky rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: read this every year on December 22
Shelves: poetry, favorites, epic
What is Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer?
"a book that would translate the detail of thought from a day to language like a dream transformed to read as it does, everything, a book that would end before it started in time to prove the day like the dream has everything in it, to do this without remembering like a dream inciting writing continuously for as long as you can stand up till you fall down like in a story to show and possess everything we know because having it all at once is performing a
I suffered through this book when it was assigned in American 20th Century Poetry. This book is a prime example of why I don't care for a) American literature, b) American poets, c) 20th century poets, and d) any torturous combination of the three. Little more than pages and pages of free-writing, Mayer would like to pass this off as some innovative, poetic experiment. I say, not.
Midwinter is presented as an epic poem, yet the closing thoughts by Mayer call it an essay. I waiver to give it three or four stars. Initially it reads too hard, Mayer seems to be trying too hard with the opening dream sequence in which she interjects many sidebar commentaries (think Beckett) that it seems a document of a dream layered with memory. Page forward -- we get moving into "a day in the life" of the poet, the artist, the mom in 'burb hell in 1978, streets iced with snow and history. We ...more
Dec 22, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I was introduced to this book by the lead assistant to the professor for Coursera's and UPenn's course Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, who generously spent part of her Midwinter Day (and a couple of preceding days) this year leading a discussion of the book on the ModPo forums. I have read most of the book at least twice now, and I feel like I'm only beginning to discover it. There are passages on just about every page that leave me in absolute awe of the poet. The book is a long poem t ...more
Jaredjosephjaredjoseph harveyharveyharveyharvey
I know the rest of the night will be as devoted to work as love as I'm now resting in this expensive sentence and in the end I'll spend it fast writing to you anyway, addressing you and a solution or night beginning like a letter, just a few words more freely seeing everything more clearly than the rest of life and love tends to be like windows facing mostly south but surrounding us, I'm thinking of you.
Jan 19, 2014 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
On December 22, 1978, 33 year old poet and mother, Bernadette Mayer sought to record her thoughts and experiences of a single day in poetry and prose. Broken into six sections, this 119 page poem provides an intimate glimpse into the thoughts, struggles, fears, dreams, and passions of a young American mother in the late 70s. Filled with love and emotion, I found it to be a peaceful and reassuring reading experience.
Still reeling from the commitment. It's a short book, but a long poem and a focused read. I think on balance I loved it. It's specificity which seemed often to be an entirely recognizable reflection of my own experience. It is a poem of a mid-winter's day in the life of a 70's poet with two children and a husband - also a poet. The story of her dreams, the story of her day and then back to her night a day lived in a red-brick apartment building, in a small town. It's by turns beautiful, random a ...more
Carrie Lorig
my life is fucking different is fucked different now that i've read this you idiot clouds. call me storm leather or don't bother to try my desire at all.
Midwinter Day is an epic poem that describes the events of one Midwinter Day, from dreams in the morning to thoughts at night. In between, not much else happens: a walk through the city, a temper tantrum, two meals, drawing, and some dancing. Instead, Midwinter Day gives as pure of a glimpse into Mayer's head as it can, and as the poem goes on, the clarity and feeling of this grows. By part five, you're there with her watching your daughter's dance and wondering where this all fits into the whol ...more
Difficult to rate Mayer's experiment. It took fortitude to get through this bad-boy and I finally finished on December 22nd--so fitting. Here are some of my favorite gems:

"Now that our days/ Are full of normal parts/ It seems we have all lived forever so far...And it's as if/ Today I had someone else's dreams."

"Winter one better do me one better one faster one ice one day"

"I wonder why we write at all/ These trees have seen all this before/ But they are glad of an encore"

Lee Razer
The question is, do you find Bernadette Mayer's mind to be interesting enough to spend 119 pages of free verse modernist poetry with. Because that's what you get here: her thoughts from a single unremarkable day, and even worse her nighttime dreams, riffed on. I did not.
Did a review of this book here:
Mayer wrote a book-length lyric essay out of the thoughts/events/activities of a day in her life. In concept, it seems like a great exercise as a writer, but it was difficult to make it through this entire book.
this book is the shit. it's one poem (over a hundred pages long) written over the course of one day. an unbelievable accomplishment, and one of the most engaging poems i've ever encountered.
Couldn't finish this one though it came highly recommended from a poetry group to which I belong.
Tried several times. Just not for me.
Matt Walker
Apr 10, 2014 Matt Walker marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
trying to stay interested, but other people's dreams aren't that interesting to me. my own dreams aren't even that interesting to me.
A really poignant, and simultaneously fiery, portrait of a single day. Really wonderful use of pacing.
Aug 29, 2007 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
She tries to write down everything she does, dreams, thinks in a single day. The dream segment is fantastic.
i do and i don't like mayer's work. i feel accomplished for finally reading this.
Avishay Artsy
Jul 12, 2007 Avishay Artsy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
A dizzying journey into the dream world and waking life of an incredible New York poet.
Victoria (vikz writes)
this is one of those books that I will return to again and again.
Or how I learned to be adored before britpop found a drum machine.
B marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2015
Michael Jantz
Michael Jantz marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2015
Ruby-rose Niemann
Ruby-rose Niemann marked it as to-read
Nov 20, 2015
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  • Case Sensitive
  • The Language of Inquiry
  • The Sonnets
  • Sleeping With the Dictionary
  • My Emily Dickinson
  • In the Pines
  • The Weather
  • This Connection of Everyone With Lungs
  • Collected Works
  • Coeur de Lion
  • Awe
  • This Can't Be Life
  • Deepstep Come Shining
  • I Remember
  • Zong!
Bernadette Mayer (born May 12, 1945) is an American poet, writer, and visual artist associated with both the Language poets and the New York School. Mayer's record-keeping and use of stream-of-consciousness narrative are two trademarks of her writing, though she is also known for her work with form and mythology. In addition to the influence of her textual-visual art and journal-keeping, Mayer's p ...more
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“I think I know the trees
Will never love me and we're here as accidentally”
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