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  • NYS Writers Institute

Poetry Friday: "Romance" by April Bernard

"Oh, I'm a romantic, but a heartbroken romantic -- and noir, deeply noir,” poet April Bernard told Harvard magazine in a November 2010 profile. “Noir is romanticism embittered. The life of feeling that has been betrayed leads to the attitude and genre of noir."

April Bernard’s

She continued, "No one who loves noir is a cynic -- cynics never believed in anything in the first place. People who love noir are disillusioned romantics. You couldn’t have Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett unless you had the Romantics: the belief that feeling is primary and expressing feeling will lead you to spiritual enlightenment. When you find out that it doesn’t, you end up in a place of noir.

April Bernard will be joined by novelist Joyce Carol Oates for a reading and discussion at next Tuesday's NYS Summer Writers Institute event at Skidmore College. 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall on the Skidmore campus in Saratoga Springs.


By April Bernard

I pine. There is an obstacle to our love.

Every time I hear the postman, I think: At last, the letter! He has overcome the obstacle—

(It is a large obstacle, an actual alp, with a tree line and sheer rock face streaked with snow even in July)

—for love of me! For three years, nine decades, and one century or so, there has been no letter. I still wait for the letter.

But lately I wonder if my predicament is outside the human, neither noble nor farcical; if my heart courts pain

because it aims for immortality, something grander than I can imagine. Most of what I imagine,

what I want, is small: Hands with mine in the sink, washing dishes, the smell of wool, feet tangling mine in bed. I know

the gods punish the proud, but I do not yet know why they punish the humble. Although after all

it is not humble to ask, every minute or so, for happiness.

© April Bernard. Published in the Romanticism (W.W. Norton) 2011

April Bernard’s sixth book of poems, The World Behind the World, (W.W. Norton) was published earlier this year. Previous collections include Brawl & Jag, Romanticism, Swan Electric, Psalms, and Blackbird Bye Bye, which won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her novels include Pirate Jenny and Miss Fuller; she has also published short fiction in Little Star, Electric Literature, and The Southampton Review.

A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and other journals, she is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Skidmore College as well as a faculty member of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars. She has received a Guggenheim fellowship, a Whitney Humanities Center Fellowship, and the Walt Whitman Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

New York State Summer Writers Institute

Readings and talks are free and open to the public.

Except where noted, the readings begin at 8 p.m. at

Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall

Skidmore College

815 North Broadway in Saratoga Springs

Phone: 518-580-5593

Week 4; NYS Summer Writers Institute Monday, July 17:

Fictionist Francine Prose (The Vixen) and novelist-memoirist Danzy Senna (Caucasia; Where Did You Sleep Last Night)

Tuesday, July 18:

Novelist Joyce Carol Oates (Zombie; Blonde; The (Other) You: Stories) and poet April Bernard (The World Behind the World: Poems)

Wednesday, July 19:

Remembering Russell Banks

Joyce Carol Oates, Nicholas Delbanco (It is Enough; What Remains), Tom Healy (What the Right Hand Knows; Velvet; Animal Spirits), Adam Braver and Robert Boyers.

Payne Room, Tang Museum, Skidmore College

Thursday, July 20:

Update: Marilynne Robinson (Gilead; Housekeeping) and poet Henri Cole (Blizzard: Poems, Nothing To Declare) Note: Jamaica Kincaid was originally scheduled to read at this event.

Friday, July 21:

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and NYS Writers Institute founder William Kennedy & Friends


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