The Cave is a collaboration of prose, poetry, dialogue, and song alternately written by Clark Coolidge and Bernadette Mayer between 1972 and 1978. Exploring the philosophy of Wittgenstein, the nature of language, and the connections between the present and past, it constantly challenges the reader to question reality, time, and the poets themselves. The work ranges from complex and imagistic rambles through imaginary landscapes to terse, clear accounts of exploring Eldon’s Cave in western Massachusetts, the setting of several of Coolidge’s poems.
Clark Coolidge and Bernadette Mayer have been writing for over fifty years, and they have both had an unquantifiable impact on the direction of experimental poetry. In the words of Marcella Durand, who provides an introduction, “Coolidge and Mayer evidently shared a common mission in their writings to encompass consciousness, language, and the intricacy of physical/scientific/geologic structures, and to cross whatever fake borders had been set up between genres, materials, or even words themselves."
Clark Coolidge is the author of more than 30 books of poetry. He has experimented with writing and music composition after college while travelling to Los Angeles and Greenwich Village in New York City before returning to his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. He’s associated with the New York School of Poets and the Language Poets, even as his work predates the movement. Coolidge’s work has been influenced by acclaimed literary figures including Rilke, Beckett and Kerouac. He taught at the Naropa Institute and the American Academy in Rome (1985-85) and has read from his work in France, London, Scandinavia, and Russia. He then co-founded the MIX poetry and jazz group in 1993.
Bernadette Mayer, author of more than 20 poetry collections, began her career as a conceptual artist, combining photography and writing as she experimented with time-based works. Mayer is associated with the New York School of Poets and is often compared to Gertrude Stein, Dadaist writers and James Joyce. She edited and published the journal 0 TO 9 with artist Vito Acconci (1967-69) and established United Artists Magazine with poet Lewis Warsh in 1977. Mayer first won critical acclaim for the exhibit Memory and has received grants from Creative Capital and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She is also a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the 2014 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship. Mayer served as director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project (1980-1984) and taught workshops there. She has also taught at a number of other colleges including the New School for Social Research, Naropa University, Long Island University, the College of Saint Rose, Miami University and the University of Pennsylvania as a Kelly Writers House Fellow.
Adventures in Poetry began publishing in 1968 as a mimeographed “little magazine,” and continued through 1976 with individual pamphlets, featuring work by Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bernadette Mayer, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, Anne Waldman, and many others. After a long hiatus, it began publishing books by established and new innovative writers that are available exclusively through Zephyr Press.
Clark Coolidge and Bernadette Mayer