Bernadette Mayer and Lewis Warsh wrote Piece of Cake as a work of collaborative prose poetry, based on a process of each writing on alternate days in the course of August of 1976-the bicentennial year of the America's Declaration of Independence. It recounts the quotidian details of daily activities, negotiating the exigencies of young, married-with-children life, the artistic path and citizenship. It has the classic "I did this, I did that" of a New York School of Poetry text, as characterized by the poetry of Frank O'Hara, and is somewhat reminiscent of Mayer's work Studying Hunger Journal, written not long before taking up Piece of Cake. Another distinguishing feature of this work is that it is arguably the first significant male-female collaboration in 20th century American poetry. Regarding the possible derivation of the work's title, and exemplary of the work's tenor, is the start of Warsh's entry of August 29: "I also recall getting up and eating a piece of left-over cake (a very sweet store-bought cake with green or possibly pinkish icing) and drinking a glass of milk at the kitchen window. Empty streets, no moon. Michael and Twinkie asleep on the floor of Bernadette's room, Guy and Karen in mine, Bill on the couch in the living room. Marie in her crib. Everyone 'dead to the world,' a phrase I dislike, what a full house.
Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn, New York, and received her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in 1967. She is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry. From 1972 to 1974, Mayer and conceptual artist Vito Acconci edited the journal 0 TO 9, and in 1977 she established United Artists Press with the poet Lewis Warsh. She has taught writing workshops at The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in New York City for many years, and she served as the Poetry Project's director.
Lewis Warsh is the author of over thirty volumes of poetry, fiction and autobiography, including Out of the Question: Selected Poems (Station Hill, 2017), Alien Abduction (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015), One Foot Out the Door: Collected Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), A Place in the Sun (Spuyten Duyvil, 2010) and Inseparable (Granary Books, 2008). He was co-founder, with Bernadette Mayer, of United Artists Magazine and Books, and co-editor, with Anne Waldman, of The Angel Hair Anthology (Granary Books, 2001).
Published January 2020.