poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born in 1960, April Bernard grew up in New England, where she was educated at Harvard University. Upon receiving her bachelor's degree, she moved to New York City to work in publishing, eventually serving as senior editor of Vanity Fair. Despite her success, Bernard left publishing in order to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature from Yale University.

Her first book, Blackbird Bye Bye (Random House, 1989), was chosen by Amy Clampitt as the winner of the 1989 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. The judge commended the book for its utter lack of apology, saying: "The wit here is corrosive, the ear faultless, the raised voice one to which we cannot but listen."

Her other acclaimed books of poetry include: Romanticism (W. W. Norton, 2009); Swan Electric (2002); Psalms (1995). She is also the author of a novel, Pirate Jenny (W. W. Norton, 1990).

Of her work, the poet John Ashbery has said, "April Bernard's voice is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but the wilderness is our populated, all too familar one and her psalms are striped with modern despair, loving, and knowing."

Bernard has taught at Amherst College, Baruch College, and Bennington College, where she is currently on the faculty of the MFA program. She also serves as the Director of Creative Writing at Skidmore College.

Bernard is the recipient of many honors, including a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship. She currently lives in Bennington, Vermont.

Roy Orbison and John Milton Are Still Dreaming

April Bernard
You know what I mean: In the instant
of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles—

He's still alive—She came back—They didn't mean it—
We forgive and are forgiven—It all turned out—

And then the hand claws the duvet,
seized by the real, as all that's warm just drops.

I know you know. But I seek a potion
to make me dream of the actual with the same fervor,

so I'll wake to happy facts: It's spring! It's raining! Robins!
Someone will return a phone call today! My son

has watched the clock and let me nap for 35 minutes!—
and does not notice my face smacked wet

by the snap of the delusion, unmatched in sweetness,
that you promised to hold me always.

From Romanticism by April Bernard. Copyright © 2009 by April Bernard. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

From Romanticism by April Bernard. Copyright © 2009 by April Bernard. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

April Bernard

April Bernard

Born in 1960, April Bernard grew up in New England, where she

by this poet

poem
At least that many buffet here, and I
erect as the monument despite my hope to be flattened.
If only the winds could take the horse-sobs
that heave from me, wind-whipped
without the grace of speech; if only
these small creatures with amused, skeptical eyes
could offer me their chittering, their business
of
poem
The cloth edge of certainty
has shredded down to this:
God and love are real,
but very far away.
If I go to Istanbul, will I return?
That is not one of the permitted questions.
When I go to Istanbul, how will I bear to return?
I could slip into the small streets
to the high plain and the Caucasus—

It's all
poem

Of course the tall stringy woman

draped in a crocheted string-shawl

selling single red carnations

coned in newsprint the ones

she got at the cemetery

and resells with a god bless you

for a dollar that same woman

who thirty years ago