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Attention Equals LifeThe Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture$
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Andrew Epstein

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199972128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199972128.001.0001

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Writing the Maternal Everyday

Writing the Maternal Everyday

Bernadette Mayer and Her “Daughters”

(p.156) 4 Writing the Maternal Everyday
Attention Equals Life

Andrew Epstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Bernadette Mayer develops a groundbreaking, influential mode referred to as “the poetics of the maternal everyday”: a feminist aesthetic that explores how daily experience is shaped by gender, represents the lived realities of being a woman and a mother, and insists that motherhood is always political. Mayer’s model of everyday poetics has been highly influential for contemporary poetry. To demonstrate and explore the aesthetic and political impact of her career, this chapter pairs Mayer’s poetry with the work of some of her most interesting descendants, including Hoa Nguyen, Claudia Rankine, and Laynie Browne. By focusing on Mayer and her poetic “daughters,” this chapter aims to revise discussions of poetry and the everyday, and to question some of the gendered assumptions that still sometimes structure those discussions.

Keywords:   Bernadette Mayer, New York School, motherhood and literature, conceptual poetry, feminist poetics, contemporary women’s poetry, Hoa Nguyen, Laynie Browne, long poem, flaneuse

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