Charles Bernstein

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.

Talkin' Politics of Poetic Form (the recordings)

25th anniversary

New at PennSound (site link for these recordings)

a series of talks I curated in 1988 at The New School (New York) and collected in The Politics of Poetic Form, Roof Books (1990)

2 X 2: a poetry film by Ernesto Livon-Grosman with Jorge Santiago Perednik and Charles Bernstein (2012)

Emancipation via elimination

Vanessa Place's 'Boycott Project'

Vanessa Place
Vanessa Place

For all their twists and spin, poets like Kamau Brathwaite and Charles Bernstein seem strikingly direct in their politics when compared to Vanessa Place and her poetics of iteration. Where in a work like World on Fire Bernstein clearly attacks the US invasion of Iraq, Place, like some other conceptual writers, seems to reject the idea that we might change the world by transforming our language. Indeed, at times Place takes direct aim at texts that seek a revolutionary change in the social order.

For instance, in her “Boycott Project,” Place reproduces feminist classics such as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex with all female-gendered words replaced by their male counterparts. (See Place’s The Father & Childhood.) 

Susan Howe reads from 'My Emily Dickinson' & discusses with poets

Alte Schmiede reading, Vienna, Jan. 26, 2012

with Peter Waterhouse's University of Vienna seminar

A raucous evening of translations and transformations, performances and metamorphoses in/around All the Whiskey in Heaven and "Johnny Cake Hollow."Charles Bernstein with  Miriam Rainer, Julia Dengg, Manuel Niedermeier, Dimitri Smirnov, Helmut Ege, Franz Vala, Judith Aistleitner, Nina Truskawetz, and Peter Waterhouse. With thanks to Katharine Apostle.  Filmed by  August Bisinger

Revolutions per minute

Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein reads/plays "stop it"
Charles Bernstein at a Poets Against the War reading, Buffalo, March 5, 2003

In the essay “The Conspiracy of Us” (first published in 1979, in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E), Charles Bernstein anticipated a key driver of the iterative turn in contemporary poetry when he described his anxiety about collective identity and action and argued for the revolutionary power of poetry to disrupt the certainty of our collective positions.

Salt Companion to Charles Bernstein, ed. William Allegrezza

Publication Date: 25-Sep-12 | ISBN: 9781844714858 | Trim Size: 228 x 152 mm | Extent: 388pp | Format: Paperback / softback

William Allegrezza's introduction to the Compation via Poems and Poetics.

to expedite purchase
the publisher recommends
ordering  from Amazon

The MLA does not support the variable foot

Asphodel flowers.
Asphodel flowers.

By the time we got to the long, apologetic love poem Asphodel, That Greeny Flower in the Williams class, I was beginning to worry about the relatively short amount of time we had spent on the variable foot.

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