Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions

... just when you thought it was safe to go back to the poetry waters ....

Attack cover

Attack of the Difficult Poems
Essays and Inventions
University of Chicago Press
On Attack of the Difficult Poems:

"A superb poet and great inventor of poetry, Charles Bernstein dazzlingly invents the essay for poetry: professing in a gorilla suit and white tuxedo.”—George Lakoff

 “This is a smart and invigorating book that triumphantly demonstrates Charles Bernstein’s goals and values. Those who want satire, those who want earnest discussion, those who want information, those who want to get a sense of personality, those who want theory, those who want entertainment, even those who wish to be confirmed in their beliefs and those who wish to nurse their resentments, will all find something here.”—Daisy Fried

 “I regret to inform you that Charles Bernstein’s Attack of the Difficult Poems is highly unsuitable (not suitable) for National Poetry Month. Not suitable for acceptance by the publications of the Modern Language Association or its affiliate, the Annual Convention. Not suitable for readers under the age of five. Not suitable for endorsement by the Paris Review. Not suitable for your average television sitcom. Not suitable for tenure. Not suitable for free distribution. Not suitable for variations in the ontological condition. Not suitable for readers of generic poetry. Not suitable for the MFA. For everyone else: priceless.”—Tan Lin 

Charles Bernstein is our postmodern jester of American poesy, equal parts surveyor of democratic vistas and scholar of avant-garde sensibilities. In a career spanning thirty-five years and forty books, he has provoked us with writing that is unafraid of the tensions between ordinary and poetic language, and between everyday life and its adversaries. Attack of the Difficult Poems, his latest collection of essays, gathers some of his most memorably irreverent work while addressing seriously and comprehensively the state of contemporary humanities, the teaching of unconventional forms, fresh approaches to translation, the history of language media, and the connections between poetry and visual art. 

Applying an array of essayistic styles, Attack of the Difficult Poems ardently engages with the promise of its title. Bernstein introduces his key theme of the difficulty of poems and defends, often in comedic ways, not just difficult poetry but poetry itself. Bernstein never loses his ingenious ability to argue or his consummate attention to detail. Along the way, he offers a wide-ranging critique of literature’s place in the academy, taking on the vexed role of innovation and approaching it from the perspective of both teacher and practitioner.

From blues artists to Tin Pan Alley song lyricists to Second Wave modernist poets, The Attack of the Difficult Poems sounds both a battle cry and a lament for the task of the language maker and the fate of invention. 

ISBN-13: 978-0-226-04477-4
ISBN-10: 0-226-04477-7 $26.00
Cover design by Isaac Tobin 

Review
Jared Demick, The Jivin' Ladybug
April 2011

 I. Professing Poetics
    The Difficult Poem
    A Blow Is Like an Instrument: The Poetic Imaginary and Curricular Practices
    Against National Poetry Month as Such
    Invention Follies
    Creative Wreading & Aesthetic Judgment
    Wreading, Writing, Wresponding
    Anything Goes
    Our Americas: New Worlds Still in Progress
    The Practice of Poetics

II. The Art of Immemorability
    Every Which Way but Loose
    The Art of Immemorability
    Making Audio Visible: Poetry’s Coming Digital Presence
    The Bound Listener
    Hearing Voices
    Objectivist Blues: Scoring Speech in Second Wave Modernist Poetry and Lyrics

III. The Fate of the Aesthetic
    McGann Agonist
    Poetry and/or the Sacred
    The Art and Practice of the Ordinary
    Electronic Pies in the Poetry Skies
    Poetry Plastique: A Verbal Explosion in the Art Factory (with Jay Sanders)
    Speed the Movie or Speed the Brand Name or Aren’t You the Kind That Tells
    Breaking the Translation Curtain: The Homophonic Sublime
    Fraud’s Phantoms: A Brief Yet Unreliable Account of Fighting Fraud with Fraud
    Fulcrum Interview
    Radical Jewish Culture / Secular Jewish Practice
    Poetry Scene Investigation: A Conversation with Marjorie Perloff
    Is Art Criticism Fifty Years Behind Poetry?
    Poetry Bailout Will Restore Confidence of Readers

IV. Recantorium
    Recantorium (a bachelor machine, after Duchamp after Kafka)