Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words by Bernadette Mayer

Paperback, 452 pages
Publisher: Barrytown/Station Hill (July 2015)
Language: English
Selected by Barbara Epler

“James Laughlin [founder of New Directions] never, ever let me touch his poetry list. But this is the one I smuggled in. So I wanted to give her a shout-out. She just won a Guggenheim Fellowship. I’m so happy.” —Barbara Epler 

Bernadette Mayer is an avant-garde writer associated with the New School, an informal group of artists, poets and dancers in 1950s and 1960s New York. Mayer experiments with form and stream-of-consciousness narrative, blurring the lines between prose and poetry. She edited the journal 0 TO 9 with Vito Acconci and established the United Artists Press with Lewis Warsh, and has taught at the New School for Social Research in New York. Eating the Colors is a collection of Mayer’s astonishing early works.



Can I count on ________’s promises? Hello? How many? Will I acquire much property? C-c-calm, mostly. One two three four one two three four ..... What sort of husband will I marry? direc––direc––direc––shun shun shun of wind shown by smoke drif-if-if-ift ..... Any more? Will I get what I wish for? ..... but not, never, not once, couldn’t happen, would fall flat, by wind vanes. One? Two? Buckle my shoe? Will I win my lawsuit? Leaves rustle. One and one are ..... Will I make anything on this speculation? The wind is felt on the fact of..... ..... are two. What sort of wife if any will I marry? Regular vane moved by wind. One and one is two. Will I be a success? Leaves in constant motion, twigs in constant motion, leaves and twigs in constant motion. x one million. Will my friend be true to his word? One ex- ex- ex- tends––a two. words words. Do I have any enemies? Raises dust & dust & dust & dust ..... and one and two and ..... What will be my luck if I get married? and loose loose loose loose paper ..... and one for the money ..... Will I get what I want? Be careful––small branches are moved. one by one. Will I be lucky this year? Sway, small trees in leaf begin to. two by two. Will I live to be very old? Urn, uh, crested wavelets (wavelets yet), I, uh, form on, yes, inland waters, yes, a hundred and three. Can I expect good news soon? Large branches in motion, urn, picture company will be yours! and two for the show ..... Will ––––– get out of prison soon? Yeah, never, whistling heard in telegraph wires (for him?), let’s see, who said? ..... and three to get ready ..... Who has got my (lost or stolen) stuff? Yeah, who cares? um-um-umbrellas ha! used with d-dif-iculty so! one or one is ... Will I ever inherit much? Whole trees, eh? in motion ..... one (still one). Will I prosper in what I now undertake? Now, ah, you can hardly walk against that, uh, wind, heh. Pick a number, any number .....Is my lover faithful? Breaks twigs off trees. Hey! ....from one to a billion and two. What will be my success in business? Generally, um, im im- pedes, eh? prog––ha! progress, oh, heh. Any number? Will I ever get married? Progress rest gem generally leap imp impeded dead. Any number. Will my business yield much this year? Slight, very slight, really slight, awfully slight, structural, ah, structurial, ah, -ural, dam- damage -age o-o-occurs. Zero and one quarter (thinks). Will this be a good bargain? Chimney pots and slate removed. Hey! Oh. Ready? Will I recover what I lost? Sel dom ex per i enced in land. Is too! Yeah? Ouf! . . . and four to go. How many children if any will I have? Trees uprooted. Ready. What will be my destiny? Considerable, a lot, a whole lot, really alot, a great deal of structural (pause) damage occurs. Oh yeah? Yeah. Oh. One quarter. Will I overcome my enemies? Very, very, rarely, very rarely ex––ex––ex- perienced. That’s right! Wrong! Will the patient recover from his illness? Companied, ah, accompanied, excuse me, what? oh, yeah, by, what was it? oh yes, hello? ah, widespread gee, no, oh no, wait! yeah, that’s better, don’t ask me, okay, bye.


Station Hill Publishing was founded in 1977 as a project of the New York nonprofit the Institute for Publishing Arts, which publishes mainly poetry, experimental prose and translations.

  • Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words