Language Is a Temptation: Daily Readings from Bernadette Mayer’s Memory


June 24th, 2020

A daily reading, from July 1 to 31 @poetshouse at 3 p.m. EST

In 1971, for the month of July, poet Bernadette Mayer embarked on an experiment: each day she exposed a roll of 35mm film and kept a journal. The result was a groundbreaking, conceptual work that investigates the nature of memory, its surfaces, textures and material. Memory, comprised of more than 1100 photographs and two hundred pages of text, presages the durational and constraint-based works of a poet widely regarded as one of the most innovative writers of her generation. Originally conceived as an installation of photographs with a six-hour audio recording, Memory is now a book, published by Siglio, in which the full sequence of images and text come together for the first time on the page, making space for a work that has been legendary but mostly invisible.

Now, almost fifty years later in 2020, for the month of July, Poets House and Siglio are launching “Language Is a Temptation: Daily Readings from Bernadette Mayer’s Memory” with an exciting and diverse roster of poets, writers, scholars, and artists reading from Memory. The series celebrates the release of the book, but it also intends to be its own experiment, a kind of parallel durational work collapsing time, infiltrating social media with a different species of self-recording, connecting one consciousness to another as well as to collective memory.

How it works: Every day this July, a passage from the corresponding day in 1971 will be read at 3 p.m. EST across the Poets House social media platforms on Instagram (IGTV), Twitter, and Facebook. The video will also feature text being read as well as a small selection of images from that day’s entry in Memory. The videos will be archived on YouTube.

Series introduction with Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson.

SCHEDULE OF READERS (Links to archived videos)

July 1: Anselm Berrigan

July 2: Anaïs Duplan

July 3: Jen Bervin

July 4: Bill DeNoyelles

July 5: J’Lyn Chapman

July 6: Tausif Noor

July 7: Jill Magi

July 8: Peter Gizzi

July 9: Aldrin Valdez

July 10: Sarah Cain

July 11: Ann Stephenson

July 12: Greg Masters

July 13: Rona Cran

July 14: Andrew Durbin

July 15: Lee Ann Brown

July 16: Olivier Brossard

July 17: Peggy DeCoursey

July 18: Barbara Epler

July 19: Matt Connors

July 20: Brenda Coultas

July 21: Stephen Motika

July 22: Fanny Howe

July 23: Grace Murphy

July 24: Giovanni Singleton

July 25: Morgan Ritter

July 26: Emmy Catedral

July 27: Tammy Nguyen

July 28: Rachel Valinsky

July 29: Urayoán Noel

July 30: Lynne Sachs

July 31: Bernadette Mayer

Accolades for Memory
Jennifer Krasinski, Bookforum: “To a reader leafing through Memory now, Mayer’s feral run-ons may elicit a wistfulness for an era that appears so much freer than our own, and her photos’ rich cinematic hues might prompt a person to wonder how our age, so manically documented, seems far less vivid in comparison. And while prescience is always a dicey claim, Mayer’s self-portraits, often taken while staring into the lens, somehow appear like eerie proof that she was seeing us long before we would see her.”  

Sandra Simonds, Music & Literature: “It is precisely the snapshot’s insistence on imperfection, its resistance to timelessness, that gives the overall project, with its excess of dailiness, its close attention to the overlooked, an avant-garde sensibility that no Instagram filter could come close to replicating. In that regard, the images, taken together, also produce a sense of this time period’s cultural norms with respect to leisure and work. Thus, the project ventures beyond merely personal memories and moves into a collective cultural memory of this era—the streets of New York City fifty years ago when time itself felt distinctly different from how it feels today.”

More: Interview with Bernadette Mayer on and excerpt at the Paris Review, and further editorial coverage at BOMB, Brooklyn Rail, Elephant, Garage/Vice, JSTOR Daily, Poets & Writers, and Publishers Weekly. Look for new writing by Mayer in the upcoming issue of Frieze as well as reviews in Hyperallergic, Art Papers, and The Nation.

About Poets House: Poets House seeks to document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, to stimulate dialogue on issues of poetry in culture, and to cultivate a wider audience for the art. At the heart of our mission is a commitment to diversity and inclusivity, which has informed our programs and activities since we opened our doors to the public in 1986. Poets House exists to create a welcoming home for poets, poetry readers and for those who are exploring poetry; a space that encourages artistic excellence, inquiry and experimentation, and one that welcomes everyone into the joyous exploration of this art.

About Siglio: Siglio is a small, fiercely independent press driven by its feminist ethos and its commitment to writers and artists who obey no boundaries, pay no fealty to trends and invite readers to see the world anew by reading word and image in provocative, unfamiliar ways. Siglio publishes uncommon, uncategorizable books that live in the rich and varied space between art and literature.