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Mayer (Bernadette) Papers
MSS 0420  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Bernadette Mayer Papers
    Creator: Mayer, Bernadette
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0420
    Physical Description: 24.5 Linear feet (60 archives boxes, 1 card file box and 5 oversize file folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1958 - 1996
    Abstract: Papers of Bernadette Mayer, writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. Most often associated with the New York School, Mayer uses compositional methods such as chance operations, collage and cut-up. Materials include correspondence (1963-1996) with writers, artists, publishers, and friends; manuscripts and typescripts; notebooks (1964-1993) and loose notes; teaching notes; audiorecordings and photographs; and biographical materials such as calendars, datebooks and reading announcements. The collection is arranged in eleven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) NOTEBOOKS, 5) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 6) TEACHING MATERIAL, 7) EDITING MATERIAL, 8) EPHEMERA, 9) PHOTOGRAPHS, 10) AUDIORECORDINGS, and 11) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Bernadette Mayer Papers document Mayer's career as a writer and teacher and, to a lesser extent, her career as a publisher and editor. Additionally, the papers reflect the broader community of artists and writers known as the New York School. Materials include correspondence from writers, artists, publishers, and friends; notebooks and loose notes; manuscripts and typescripts of Mayer's works; teaching notes; audiorecordings and photographs; and biographical materials such as calendars, datebooks and publicity materials. The materials date from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, and are arranged in eleven series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) NOTEBOOKS, 5) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 6) TEACHING MATERIAL, 7) EDITING MATERIAL, 8) REALIA AND EPHEMERA, 9) PHOTOGRAPHS, 10) SOUND RECORDINGS, and 11) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL series consists primarily of Mayer's calendars and datebooks, encompassing the years 1975-1994. Other items include address books, biographical abstracts, interviews with Mayer, and grant applications. Additional biographical material may be found in Series 4, 8, 9, and 10.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is the most extensive in the collection. It contains letters from a wide range of literary and artistic figures, including Bill Berkson, Charlotte Carter, Clark Coolidge, William Corbett, Ed Freidman, Fanny Howe, Laura Riding Jackson, Nick Piombino, Anne Waldman, and Hannah Weiner. Also included are substantial letters from Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, and others associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing; younger writers or students such as Lee Ann Brown, Lisa Jarnot and Kristen Prevallet; visual and conceptual artists such as Vito Acconci, Ed Bowes and George Schneeman; family members; and numerous personal friends. In addition to letters, the series also contains enclosures such as personal gifts or publications sent to Mayer, the most noteworthy of which is a group of Anne Waldman's notebooks dedicated to Mayer.
    The WRITINGS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Collected, B) Uncollected, and C) School Papers.
    A) The first subseries consists of published and unpublished writings gathered into folders and arranged alphabetically by title. Included in this subseries are manuscript and typescript drafts of Mayer's published volumes, as well as numerous manuscripts and typescripts that remain unpublished at the time of processing. Most notable among the former are the slides and tape recordings that formed the basis for MEMORY, and extensive notes and source materials for UTOPIA. Most notable among the latter are a collaboration with Alice Notley, a collaboration with Bill Berkson, longer works of Mayer's such as "Mind of Hour," and extensions of published works such as "The Studying Hunger Journals." In most cases, Mayer's ostensible aim in gathering this work is eventual publication. In cases where Mayer's purpose appears to be other than that of publication (as in the working folder entitled "To Type or Work On"), poems and drafts of poems have been listed and refiled in the Uncollected subseries.
    B) The second subseries contains uncollected writings filed individually and alphabetized according to title or first line. Included are drafts of individual poems and pieces of writing with typescript and holograph corrections and emendations.
    C) The School Papers subseries contains Mayer's academic papers from high school and college, including reading notes, early drafts and corrections. Notebooks containing college work are located at the beginning of Series 4.
    The NOTEBOOKS series consists of Mayer's notebooks arranged in two subseries: A) Dated, and B) Undated. The series primarily documents Mayer's day-to-day activities and impressions, but often contains manuscript drafts of poems and prose-writings as well as various exercises such as freewrites and letters. Many of the notebooks also contain teaching notes and student writings. In cases where a notebook was titled by Mayer, the title has been retained. In most other cases, the notebooks have been assigned titles that refer to their general contents.
    A) The first subseries contains notebooks dated by Mayer and notebooks whose date has been ascertained. The notebooks date from 1964 to 1993 and are arranged chronologically.
    B) The Undated subseries includes notebooks provided with a speculative or general date based on content or type of book.
    The WRITINGS OF OTHERS series consists of manuscripts and typescripts of writings by numerous peers of Mayer's, as well as by some of her more notable students, such as Lee Ann Brown and Lisa Jarnot. Included are works by Ted Berrigan, Clark Coolidge, William Corbett, Fanny Howe, Tom Savage, James Schuyler, Charlie Vermont, Anne Waldman, and Hannah Weiner. It is usually unclear whether a given manuscript or typescript was submitted for consideration by United Artists or 0 TO 9, or whether it was submitted to Mayer for informal commentary.
    The TEACHING MATERIAL series consists of materials relating to Mayer's career as a teacher of experimental writing. Course descriptions, handouts, reading lists, and syllabi predominate, although the series also includes some loose notes pertaining to particular courses and Mayer's collaborations with her students. Most of the material relates to courses given at the Naropa Institute, the New School for Social Research and the Poetry Project, but materials pertaining to courses taught at other institutions, as well as to Mayer's experience teaching writing in New York City's public high-schools, are also included. Notes for THE ART OF SCIENCE WRITING, a pedagogical work written by Mayer and Dale Worsley, are filed in Series 3A.
    This series is arranged in four subseries: A) 0-9, B) Miscellaneous, C) United Artists, and D) UNNATURAL ACTS and consists of correspondence, submissions, and other materials relating to Mayer's career as an editor.
    The EPHEMERA series contains miscellaneous materials related to past relationships and family.
    The PHOTOGRAPHS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Prints, B) Albums, and C) Slides. The prints are primarily black-and-white images of Mayer and photographs of others taken by Mayer. Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Ed Bowes, Anne Waldman, and Lewis Warsh are among those represented. The albums document Mayer's family and friends. The Slides subseries contains images of family. Slides related to Mayer's book MEMORY are located in Series 3A.
    The SOUND RECORDINGS series is arranged in two subseries: A) By Others and B) By Mayer. Included are audiocassette diary recordings by Mayer and a reel-to-reel audiotape by Lewis Warsh at Harvard University in 1972. Audiocassette diary recordings related to Mayer's book MEMORY are located in Series 3A. Please note that all audio recordings in this collection are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains brittle or high acid content original documents that have been photocopied. This material is restricted; researchers must use preservation photocopies found in the collection.


    Bernadette Mayer was born on May 12, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York. She received her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in 1967, shortly after which she began teaching there on a part-time, semi-permanent basis. From 1967-1969, Mayer and conceptual artist Vito Acconci edited the experimental journal 0 TO 9, which published work from experimentalists in a range of genres and media. In the early 1970s, Mayer lived with film-maker Ed Bowes, with whom she collaborated on numerous projects. In 1975, Mayer married writer and publisher Lewis Warsh, with whom she had three children. Warsh and Mayer collaboratively edited United Artists press, which published a number of seminal books of poetry, including Ted Berrigan's SONNETS and Mayer's own UTOPIA.
    Throughout the 1980s, Mayer was director of The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in New York where, as well as teaching writing workshops, she produced the Poetry Project's reading series. Mayer's position made her a central figure in the community of artists and writers gathered at that time in New York City's Lower East Side, and many of her students from this period -- Lee Ann Brown and Lisa Jarnot among them -- have gone on to become writers themselves.
    As a writer, Mayer is most often associated with the New York School, a rubric which refers to composers, painters, visual artists, conceptual artists, and choreographers in addition to writers. Mayer's use of compositional methods such as chance-operation, collage, and cut-up identify her as an artist pursuing concerns similar to those of John Cage, Jackson Mac Low or Frank O'Hara -- central figures in the New York School -- as well as more contemporary figures associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing. But Mayer's work is also significantly influenced by modernist figures such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, as well as by her background in classical studies, evident in her syllabi, reading lists and in her informal translations of Catallus.
    Mayer's publications include: CEREMONY LATIN (1964), STORY (1968), MOVING (1971), MEMORY (1975), STUDYING HUNGER (1975), THE BASKETBALL ARTICLE (1975), POETRY (1976), THE GOLDEN BOOK OF WORDS (1978), ERUDITIO EX MEMORIA (1978), MIDWINTER DAY (1982), UTOPIA (1984), SONNETS (1989), THE FORMAL FIELD OF KISSING (1990), THE DESIRES OF MOTHERS TO PLEASE OTHERS IN LETTERS (1994), and PROPER NAME AND OTHER STORIES (1996). In 1992, New Directions published A BERNADETTE MAYER READER, which included excerpts from all of her books in addition to new material.

    Preferred Citation

    Bernadette Mayer Papers, MSS 420. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1996.


    Sound recordings in Series 3: WRITINGS and Series 10: SOUND RECORDINGS are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Related Materials

    Bernadette Mayer letters to Rosemary Mayer, MSS 520. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    American poetry -- 20th century
    Poetry -- Editing
    Women poets -- United States
    Mayer, Bernadette -- Archives
    Warsh, Lewis
    Silliman, Ronald, 1946- -- Correspondence
    Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- Correspondence
    Notley, Alice, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Mac Low, Jackson -- Correspondence
    Whalen, Philip -- Correspondence
    Warsh, Lewis -- Correspondence
    Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Corbett, William, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Banks, Russell, 1948- -- Correspondence
    Coolidge, Clark, 1939- -- Correspondence
    Andrews, Bruce, 1948- -- Correspondence
    Berrigan, Ted -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
    Bernstein, Charles, 1950- -- Correspondence
    Jackson, Laura (Riding), 1901-1991 -- Correspondence
    Howe, Fanny -- Correspondence
    Hejinian, Lyn -- Correspondence
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence