Charles Bernstein

Explode for small change (PoemTalk #104)

Akilah Oliver, 'Is You Is or Is You Ain't'

Akilah Oliver


Al Filreis brought together Yolanda Wisher (Monk Eats an Afro; the new poet laureate of Philadelphia), Charles Bernstein (Pitch of Poetry; codirector of PennSound), and Patricia Spears Jones (Lucent Fire: New & Selected) to talk about a poem by Akilah Oliver. It’s a prose poem to be found (on pp. 43–44) in Oliver’s book the she said dialogues: flesh memory (1999) and is reproduced here below: “is you is or is you ain’t.” PennSound’s Akilah Oliver author page includes a recording of her performing this poem during a Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York on January 6, 2007.

A PoemTalk retrospective (PoemTalk #100)

PoemTalkers each respond to two episodes

From left to right: William J. Harris, Tracie Morris, erica kaufman, Steve McLaughlin, Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, and Charles Bernstein.


To celebrate the one hundredth episode of PoemTalk — the series began in 2007 and is ongoing — producer and host Al Filreis convened seven poet-critics who had participated in previous episodes: Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, William J. Harris, erica kaufman, Tracie Morris, Steve McLaughlin, and Charles Bernstein. These seven were asked to listen again to the series and choose two episodes that in particular stimulated new thinking or the desire to revise, restate, reaffirm, assess, and/or commend.

Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry to Charles Bernstein and Giuseppe Conte

The 2015 Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry has been awarded to Charles Bernstein and  Giuseppe Conte. The prize was founded in 2012 by the Hungarian PEN Club (an affiliate of International PEN). In 2014, Yves Bonnefois (France) and Adonis (Syria) won the prize, which is modelled on the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 2013 the prize went to Simin Behbahani (Iran). The prize was announced on the Janus Pannonius web page.  The web page includes an  English pdf about the prize.

Video and photo documentation of the prize events and ceremony here. 

An English translation of the laudation (presentaton speech) by Enikő Bollobás is here.; the full essay from which the speech is excerpted is here. Pictures of the ceremony and reaidng are here.


Susan Stewart and Charles Bernstein at Bowery Poetry June 7, 2015

Fantasy Reading No. 9

Susan Stewart:

Uses of the useless

Against the division of poetry and scholarship

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Burrill.

Contemporary so-called “innovative” or “experimental” poetry’s fascination and engagement with the theoretical and the critical owes a lot to the Language poets, who, though not the first to approach the composition of poetry as an intellectual enterprise, did offer what Marjorie Perloff characterizes as a “rapprochement between poetry and theory” that could serve as an alternative to the increasingly anti-intellectual creative writing classroom of the 1970s.

'Patterns / Contexts / Time': A symposium on Contemporary Poetry, ed. Phillip Foss and Charles Bernstein (1990)

Free pdf

Twenty-five years ago Phillip Foss and I edited this issues Tyuonyi (6/7 1990), now available from the EPC Digital Library as a free pdf.  (236pp.)  

Phil introduced the issue this way:
This issue of Tyuonyi, Patterns / Contexts / Time: A Symposium on Contemporary Poetry, exists because of collective desire. Ninety-seven poets from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, England, and Australia felt the desire to respond. Their responses were to a series of questions devised by Charles Bernstein and myself. The questions were designed to be inclusive enough to address the issues which engaged us, but vague enough not to restrict the potential responses of the respondents. We wanted to create a forum wherein the real issues that compelled poets could be addressed without a felt adherence to any presuppositions. The volume of response was very gratifying and the range of response far beyond my expectation. 

•What patterns, if any, do you see developing that are presently influencing habits of reading or readership within poetry?
•What are the values or limitations of these developing, or undeveloped, patterns?
•What context, if any, do you see your work as part of?
•What context, if any, do you see for the work of those contemporary poets whom you find most interesting?
•What's the most disturbing (or irritating) thing associated with poetry or your work as a poet?
•What sources do you find most useful in keeping informed about contemporary poetry?
•Do universities play any role for you in terms of your work as a poet?
•Do you ever think about what you will be doing in ten years? What? etc etc.

Bright arrogance #5

'Extraordinary experience will not be locatable'

Detail of Clark Lunberry's "Bodies of Water: Somebody—Nobody"

Emily Dickinson’s poetry is perhaps the closest thing canonical American literature has to a “sacred language.” In Robert Duncan’s lectures on Dickinson, we could say that he posits her as the ultimate untranslatable poet, even within her own language. In her poems she “bring[s] us to the line where everything is so fraught with meaning that we can’t find the meaning.”  

Close listening with Keith Waldrop, 2009

Keith Waldrop reads at the Kelly Writers House, 2009.

Editorial note: The following has been adapted from a Close Listening conversation recorded November 5, 2009, at the Kelly Writers House for PennSound and Art International Radio. Keith Waldrop was born in Kansas and attended a fundamentalist high school in South Carolina. His pre-med studies were interrupted when he was drafted to be an army engineer.

Playing Stein

'Roastbeef,' by Kate Huh.
'Roastbeef,' by Kate Huh.

Tender Buttons is the future. Neither cipher nor code, the grammar of Tender Buttons forces the reader to play Stein. Stein’s obsession with perspective, her collection of objects, food, rooms, produces a scene of constraints (the rules of the game): a discrete spatial field where coordinates shift as the text’s gravity swerves. A game board. No, a bored game.

The revolution in 'Tender Buttons'

Although Three Lives and The Making of Americans were radical innovations, neither was as revolutionary as Tender Buttons (begun in 1912 and published in 1914).[1] Tender Buttons is the touchstone work of radical modernist poetry, the fullest realization of the turn to language and the most perfect realization of wordness, where word and object merge.

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