from University of Chicago Press at the end of April 176pp, paper, ebook, and audiobook (audibook available from the press and soon to be avaialbe from Amazon/Audible)
In his most expansive and unruly collection to date, the acclaimed poet Charles Bernstein gathers poems, both tiny and grand, that speak to a world turned upside down. Our time of “covidity,” as Bernstein calls it in one of the book’s most poignantly disarming works, is characterized in equalmeasure by the turbulence of both the body politic and the individual. Likewise, in Topsy-Turvy, novel and traditional forms jostle against one another: horoscopes, shanties, and elegies rub up against gags, pastorals, and feints; translations, songs, screenplays, and slapstick tangle deftly with commentaries, conundrums, psalms, and prayers.
During the pandemic, I have been thinking a lot about separation and division. When you open my front door, you’re given the choice of two doors. Turn left and you enter my studio space. Turn right and you enter my office space, a room filled with two sources of inspiration: my art collection and my library. The past few months I have struggled to balance those rooms. Buried between the stacks of books, you will also find a small television set which has lately carved out its own space, as I ritualistically watch the evening news while eating my dinner. Across from my chair is Emma Bee Bernstein’s Untitled (Self-portrait with red eyes), a photograph taken in 2006, when she was twenty-one years old. Bernstein, too, is seated, legs crossed, but without a table and only a beige hallway in front of her. She appears slightly below my eye level wearing a red silk bathrobe, black stockings and high heel shoes. Her chair-back is pressed up against the wall. To her right, a floor lamp with teetering lamp shade casts a wayward halo in her direction.