Recalculating

cover image by Susan Bee, photo by Alan Thomas

 

Best of 2013
Rae Armantrout, Volta
Patrick Pritchett,  Writing the Messianic
Todd Swift, Eyewear
Jake Marmer, The Forward
Pierre Joris, Nomadics

reviews 

Mark FordTLS, Nov. 22, 2013
rob mclennan's blog
Kacy Muir, Northeast Pennsylvania Weekender  (The Times Leader, Wilkes Barre, PA) April 3, 2013, rated WWWWW (5 star/highest)  [Wilkes-Barre, PA]
Al Filries, introduction to April 16 Penn launch.
Caleb Beckwith, Volta
Josh Cook, Bookslut (May 2013)
Frank Davey, London Open Mic (May 2013) 
Tom Beckett, Galatea Resurrects #20 (May 2013)
Jake Marmer, "Charles Bernstein Makes Lovely Cacophony in his Latest Collection: Secular Avant Garde Poet's Most Jewish Work" in The Jewish Daily Forward
Reed Cooley, American Reader vol 1, 5/6  May/June 2013
Jed Rasula, Provincetown Arts Summer 2013: pdf
Mary Weston, Cleaver, #2, Summer 2013
Sean Singer, The Rumpus, Nov. 8, 2013 
Mark Ford, TLS, Nov. 22, 2013
Adam Fitzgerald, The American Reader, January 2014 


Booklist
In 1978, Bernstein and fellow avant-gardist Bruce Andrews founded L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine as a place to oppose the “confessional” voice and lyrical verse popular at the time. In dozens of books over the course of nearly 40 years, Bernstein has inspired and puzzled, annoyed and amused readers by rethinking what poetry is and what language can do. While difficult to define, we find a clue to Bernstein’s aesthetic in the epigraph to a new poem, which “adapts a line from Judith Malina’s 1967 translation of Brecht’s 1948 version of Hölderlin’s 1804 translation of Sophocles’s Antigone.” For Bernstein, historical works, interpretation, and adaptation all contribute to the cacophony of contemporary life. This collection contains a characteristically wide range of innovative verse, including formal stanzas with predictable end rhymes, columns of replicated phrases, essays in verse, axiomatic maxims, zen koans, and translations of Baudelaire, Apollinaire, and Catullus. Throughout, Bernstein usurps expectations and even anticipates, jokingly, how skeptical readers might receive his work: “I try to get them to see it as formal, structural, historical, collaborative, and ideological. What a downer!”--Diego Báez

Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books (pdf) (March 2013)

Charles Bernstein’s poetry is language that breaks thought into meaning in spite of itself.... Reading through I’m struck with his generosity in telling us everything, letting his brain register what it will, and done beautifully. He’s also a philosopher and gives us bullets that stay –from Strike, ‘every hope begins with a disappointment.’ … Bernstein is a stylist, a man on a quest, a trailblazer. His poems are a system of methodologies and theories, fueled by a set of dynamics that are intuitive and progressive. He recreates before he creates. One thing is true. Bernstein is wild with sensations and writes as if there’s no eternity. I know better than to argue with that.

"Charles Bernstein is on a mission to tear down and build back up everything we know, believe and love about poetry. His first collection in seven years uses translations, homages, and manifestoes to write a new poetry future. Witty and daring. Playful and brilliant. Recalculating will be in the discussion for all the major poetry awards this year." –– Porter Square Books

Eliabeth Burns in conversation with Bernstein on Recalculating, from Summer 2013 Rain Taxi



Recalculating
is Charles Bernstein’s first full-length collection of new poems in seven years. As a result of this lengthy time under construction, the scope, scale, and stylistic variation of the poems  surpasses Bernstein’s previous work. Together, the poems of Recalculating take readers on a journey through the history and poetics of the decades since the end of the Cold War as seen through the lens of social and personal turbulence and tragedy.
 
The collection’s title, the now–familiar GPS expression, suggests a change in direction due to a mistaken or unexpected turn. For Bernstein, formal invention is a necessary swerve in the midst of difficulty. As in all his work since the 1970s, he makes palpable the idea that radically new structures, appropriated forms, an aversion to received ideas and conventions, political engagement, and syntactic novelty will open the doors of perception to exuberance and resonance, from giddiness to pleasure to grief. But at the same time he cautions, with typical deflationary ardor, “The pen is tinier than the sword.” In these poems, Bernstein makes good on his claim that “the poetry is not in speaking to the dead but listening to the dead.” In doing so, Recalculating incorporates translations and adaptations of Baudelaire, Cole Porter, Mandelstam, and Paul Celan, as well as several tributes to writers crucial to Bernstein’s work and a set of epigrammatic verse essays that combine poetics with wry observation, caustic satire, and aesthetic slapstick.
 
Formally stunning and emotionally charged, Recalculating makes the familiar strange—and in a startling way, makes the strange familiar. Into these poems, brimming with sonic and rhythmic intensity, philosophical wit, and multiple personae, life events intrude, breaking down any easy distinction between artifice and the real. With works that range from elegy to comedy, conceptual to metrical, expressionist to ambient, uproarious to procedural, aphoristic to lyric, Bernstein has created a journey throug the dark striated by bolts of imaginative invention and pure delight.

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

“The ethos and critique are of poetry, which becomes a rich dark with a phosphorescence of lyric as witness.”

Susan Stewart
“The English word ‘calculate’ has a double life: in standard English it means to ‘reckon’ or ‘intend’ and in dialect it means ‘to guess.’ These contrary, wayward, definitions—the first so full of certainty, the second so full of ironic doubt—shimmer and clash on every page of Charles Bernstein's obsessive, brilliant new book of poems, Recalculating. Through responses, translations, adaptations, and occasional pieces, through little hymns and tragic litanies, Bernstein measures and dreams a circle: a community of readers and writers who spin within a world built from the living history of words.”|

Rae Armantrout
Recalculating gathers a substantial selection of (mostly) new poems—a few go as far back as the 80s and 90s—in a remarkably coherent and enlightening collection—though I’m certain Bernstein would abjure both of those adjectives. He has always rejected the idea of the poem as honed and polished object, and the poems in this book are as open as life itself. One thing that Recalculating makes clear is that, though Bernstein can deliver some ‘killer’ aphorisms, he is primarily a poet of abjection. He has always been drawn, as he puts it here, to the ‘painfully clumsy, clumpsy.’ Slapstick is bunkmates with failure and even heartbreak. This is especially evident in recent poems such as “Recalculating” and “Before You Go” which directly or indirectly reference the sudden death of the poet’s daughter. It is breathtaking—disturbing and admirable—that grief appears in these poems, as it does in life, alongside—well, alongside everything.”
Eileen Myles
“Charles Bernstein is writing in the simplest of forms—so simple they become radical. I love reading his work because he’s writing on the cusp of what poetry is.”
Kenneth Goldsmith
  “I was wrong, I apologize, I recant. Originality may be the only course when loss is the mother of invention. These are not my words but I mean them."

  • On-line poems from Recalculating:
    "The Truth in Pudding" in Poems & Poetics
    "Recalculating" (Conjunctions, 2011)
    "Before You Go" (ArtCritical.Com, 2011)
    tr. of Khelbnikov's "Incanttion by Laughter" (2009)
    tr. Hugo's "Tomorrow, dawn ..." with Rothenberg commentary (2009)
    tr. Baudelaire's "Be Drunken"
    Three poems in the final issue of Electronic Poetry Review (2008) ("You Say Insipid, I say Inscripsit," "What makes a Poem a Poem?" and "Up High Down Low Too Slow")
    "A Theory's Evolution" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2006) and Jewish Journal (2014)
    "Great Moments in Taches Blanches" (Reconfigurations, 2007); commentary by Franklin Winslow at Baruch blog
    Sane as Tugged Vat, Your Love (homophonic translation of Leevi Lehto's Finish) (from RIF/T 4.1) (forthcoming in Recalculating)
    "Armed Stasis" in Plume (2013)
    "Strike!" in The Baffler 19 (2012) 
    "On Election Day": video and text 
  •  

    Recalculating launch at Kelly Writers House, April 16, 2013. Intro Al Filreis followed by reading:

     

    MP3 audio

     E-book $7.00 to $18.00: Nook  | Kindle & Chicago


     

    Salt Companion to Charles Bernstein, ed. William Allegrezza