Sonnets, first published in 1989 as Tender Buttons Number 1 is widely considered to be one of the most generative and innovative works of contemporary American poetry, radically rethinking the traditional sonnet form.
[C]ompare Mayer’s title, Sonnets, to that of Ted Berrigan’s volume The Sonnets. Unlike her Poetry Project peer, Berrigan, who made grandiose claims about his own volume, Mayer didn’t set out to compose a book of exceptional or groundbreaking greatness. Notice that the patriarchal self-pronouncement of greatness in Berrigan’s “The” is absent from Mayer’s title, Sonnets.
My book will not offer you “considerable verbosity [compressed] into sparkling gems, each around fourteen lines in length.” Despite the blurb by Richard Wilbur on the back cover, he had his reservations too (carefully concealed by ellipses), which, when occasion permits, I will try to dig out from the archives to report on. Nevertheless I can assure you that you won’t find poems “around fourteen lines” but that I managed to hit that number square on the nose every time.
For something of a balanced view of the book—warts and all—check out what Arthur Mortensen had to say in his online review. Despite an earlier composition date, the Non Fit Press edition did not come out until after my Requiem—excuse me, The Requiem. Yes, that book was more of an orchidaceous self-pronouncement...