Bernard, April 1956–
BERNARD, April 1956–
PERSONAL: Born April 19, 1956, in Williamstown, MA; daughter of Walter and Claire (LaFlamme) Bernard. Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1978; graduate study at Yale University, 1980–81.
CAREER: Poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Walt Whitman Award, Academy of American Poets, 1988, for Blackbird Bye Bye.
Blackbird Bye Bye (poems), Random House (New York, NY), 1989.
Pirate Jenny (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1990.
Psalms (poems), Norton (New York, NY), 1993.
Swan Electric (poems), Norton (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author of Two Serious Ladies, a screenplay adapted from Jane Bowles's novel of the same title. Work represented in anthologies, including Under Thirty-five: The New Generation of American Poets, edited by Nicholas Christopher, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989. Contributor to periodicals, including Nation, New Republic, Vanity Fair, and Premiere.
SIDELIGHTS: April Bernard has won praise from literary critics for her poetry collections and her coming-of-age novel, Pirate Jenny. Her first publication, Blackbird Bye Bye, showed her "considerable talent for cryptic, often bitter commentary on the frustrations and fascinations of youth and urban life," according to Stephen Burt in the New York Times Book Review. In style, Blackbird Bye Bye was ahead of its time, using forms that would become popular with other poets in the 1990s. In Psalms, the poet takes biblical songs as a starting point for more than thirty poems about spiritual questing. In rhythmical verse, "jazzy" and "worldly" according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, one finds "a satisfying assertion of the human over the divine."
Bernard brings wit and a sense of fun to her verse in Swan Electric. The poems are presented by "a comic persona, a worldly heroine of picaresque urban adventures," advised a writer for New York Review of Books. While Bernard's satires on modern life are skillful, "the pleasures of her poems lie in details, surprising images, and turns of phrase, each of which has been carefully wrought," commented the reviewer. A somewhat different analysis of the collection was offered by Burt, who claimed Swan Electric revealed Bernard as "a marvelous poet of the so-called negative emotions," one who "excels at depicting impatience, frustration, evasion and defensive invention, along with the quips and recollected details that give these feelings life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1993, Whitney Scott, review of Psalms, p. 246.
Interview, April, 1989.
Library Journal, November 1, 1993, Ellen Kaufman, review of Psalms, p. 97.
Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2002, Carol Muske-Dukes, review of Swan Electric, p. R13.
New Yorker, December 6, 1993, review of Psalms, p. 147.
New York Review of Books, September 26, 2002, review of Swan Electric, p. 40.
New York Times Book Review, September 8, 2002, Stephen Burt, review of Swan Electric, p. 15.
Parnassus, fall, 1994, Mark Doty, review of Psalms, p. 143.
Poetry, July, 1994, David Baker, review of Psalms, p. 223.
Publishers Weekly, November 8, 1993, review of Psalms, p. 59; June 17, 2002, review of Swan Electric, p. 59.
Voice Literary Supplement, December, 1993, review of Psalms, p. 10.
Washington Post Book World, June 3, 1990.