Charles Bernstein

Physio-digital responses to the digital

Stephen Vincent's haptic drawings of the sound of poets reading

Stephen Vincent, "Haptic: CA Conrad Reading at Nonsite," September 12, 2009 (Ink on paper, 7.25 x 11")

The visualization of the sound of Charles Bernstein’s recording of “1-100” (1969), which I presented in a recent commentary titled “Anti-ordination in the visualization of the poem's sound,” struck artist, poet, maker of books Stephen Vincent as interestingly relevant to “haptic” drawings he has made while listening to various poets reading their work in the Bay Area, and I agree. He has called this activity drawing by sound (rather than of). “I like comparing my ‘physio/digital’ responses to the digital electronic ones,” he has written to me.

Ann Lauterbach

A 9-minute excerpt from a recent reading

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PennSound podcast #39 is devoted to Ann Lauterbach — a nine-minute excerpt from a reading she gave at the Kelly Writers House in November of 2013. Allison Harris introduces and hosts. For a full video recording of the reading and/or a full audio recording, see the Kelly Writers House web calendar entry. Charles Bernstein introduced the event, and a few seconds of his remarks can be heard in the podcast.

Anti-ordination in the visualization of the poem's sound

Bernstein chants 73 through 75 in "1 to 100" (1969)

ARLO visualization of the PennSound recording of Charles Bernstein's "1 to 100," numbers 73 through 75

Through ARLO (Adaptive Recognition with Layered Optimization), enabled by the HiPSTAS (High Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship) project headquartered at the Information School of the University of Texas at Austin, I sought to visualize the later passages of Charles Bernstein's chanted/screamed list or counting poem, “1 to 100” (1969). Thanks to Chris Mustazza, Tanya Clement, David Tcheng, Tony Borries, Chris Martin, and others, I am finally learning how to use ARLO to some rudimentary effect. Every single PennSound recording is now available in a test space to which ARLO can be applied by researchers, including myself, associated with the project. We are just beginning. HiPSTAS has received two NEH grants to make all this possible, and PennSound is a founding archival partner.

PennSound 10 years after

Featuring Michael Hennessey's recollections of his own work with the archive

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Perhaps a new optimism (PoemTalk #68)

Ray DiPalma, 'It makes / of nonsense'

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Aaron Shurin (then just in from the Bay Area), John Tranter (visiting from Australia), and Charles Bernstein (coming in from New York) joined Al Filreis for this episode of PoemTalk to discuss a poem by Ray DiPalma, “It makes of nonsense.” The poem was written in 1976, and first performed, we think, in 1977. Our text of the poem comes from the poet, and is reproduced below. Our PennSound recording of the poem was segmented from a longer tape of a reading DiPalma gave, along with Michael Lally and Bruce Andrews (quite a threesome in those years), at the Ear Inn in New York City on November 10, 1977; the tape-recording itself was made by the aforementioned Charles Bernstein, one of this episode’s interlocutors.

Aphorisms from Matvei Yankelevich & from Recalculating (video webcast)

 June 15, 2013, video web capture, part of Andrew Maxwell's LIFE SENTENCES: An Afternoon of the Epigrammatic, Los Angeles

An introduction to Charles Bernstein's reading from "Recalculating"

"Strike because you are abandoned."

[The following is the text of an introduction I gave before a reading by Charles Bernstein from his book Recalculating on April 16, 2013, at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia.]

In Recalculating (Chicago, 2013), Charles Bernstein follows every imperative invoked from the late Emma Bee Bernstein in its epigraph, among them “Pump up the radio,” “Retrace your route in reflection,” and — profoundly — “Race your future to the finish line.”   For Bernstein, via Fernando Pessoa, poets are fakers whose faking is so real they even fake the pain they truly feel.   Reversing effectiveness with an eye on redemption, he seeks to kill two stones with one bird.   Recalculating Wallace Stevens’s “Loneliness in Jersey City,” he offers us “Loneliness in Linden,” where — as is not the case in Stevens — “Jews do Jewish things” with failed language: cobbling together the six million tunes of the never-heard-of-in-modernism dead. 

In “Fold,” the poet makes a prose-poem list of sentences in which transitive verbs are identical to direct objects, facing faces, voiding voids, gulping gulps, fearing fear and hating hate. Re-addressing friends and poetic colleagues, he offers a poem in honor of Bob Perelman in which Bob is presented only by way of possessives: what he has, what he writes, not what he is. His numinous nominalism. His casual attire surrealism. His direct address to entropic homeopathic Jewishness.   In “I Will Not Write Imitative Poetry,” Bernstein — teacherly — sends himself scolded to the blackboard, forcing himself to write sixteen times that he will not write imitative poetry, he really won’t, he won’t, he won’t, he promises he won’t. It’s a wash-your-mouth-out-with-soapistry, an ars poetica as bold as the poetic-pedagogical absolutism it opposes, a few don’ts for the post-imagist.  Thus he recalculates – re-understands – innovative writing in the progressive socio-literary lineage, the “pen [being] tinier than the sword,” free verse being “not a type of poetry but an imperative to liberate verse from constraints no longer applicable for a new time and new circumstance.”  He recalculates a pragmatic progressive politics of language, thinking aloud through Lakoffian reformist optimism: “All the signs say no passage; still, there must be a way.”  

Kenneth Sherwood & Loss Pequeño Glazier on electronic poetics in 1995

From the LINEbreak series

Left, Kenneth Sherwood; right, Loss Pequeño Glazier

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In this episode of the LINEbreak series, co-editors of RIF/t, Loss Pequeño Glazier and Kenneth Sherwood, talk with Charles Bernstein about electronic publishing and the politics of editing the first online hypertext journal of poetry and poetics, RIF/t magazine. Their program was recorded in the Music Department at SUNY Buffalo in 1995. An audio recording of the full program (29 minutes) can be heard here: MP3

Howe interviews Bernstein and Andrews in 1979

from left: Susan Howe, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein

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On March 14, 1979, Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein visited the studios of WBAI in New York and were interviewed by Susan Howe, host then of the Pacifica Radio Poetry Show. This installment in the PennSound podcast series, introduced again by Amaris Cuchanski and based on editing done by Nick DeFina, features an excerpt from that interview focusing on a discussion of opaque as distinct from transparent language and of language’s materiality.

Michael Hennessey on Charles Bernstein's 1976 tapework "Class"

from Michael Hennessey’s “A Life, Spliced: On the Early Tapeworks of Charles Bernstein,” published in The Salt Companion to Charles Bernstein, edited by William Allegrezza, Salt Publishing, 2012.


“I am a recording instrument” — William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch [1] 

“Oh Charles, how could you be so cruel. Charles turn that magadget off … I'm gonna get my own tape recorder and I'm gonna tape your conversations Charles.”  — Bernstein’s mother, Sherry (from “#4: a portrait of one being in family living”)[2]

More than thirty-five years after the release of his first book, Asylums, Charles Bernstein is justifiably recognized as one of America’s most influential living poets — a fact attested to by his recent career-spanning collection, All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010).  While, as a pioneer of Language Writing, Bernstein has made significant contributions to contemporary poetics, his work as a scholar, editor, curator and pedagogue are perhaps of equal, if not greater, importance, and indeed, all of these discrete facets work together in a complementary fashion to construct his overall aesthetic, which is equally a product of numerous extra-literary cultural interests including music, film, drama and the visual arts.

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