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
 

"Dea%r Fr~ien%d" selected for 
BAX: Best of American Experimental Writing 2014, ed. Cole Sweson (Omindawn, 2014): 

reviews 
Mark FordTLS, Nov. 22, 2013
Diego Badez, Booklist (2013)
Jed Rasula, Provincetown Arts Summer 2013: pdf
Al Filries, introduction to April 16 Penn launch.
Jake Marmer, "Lovely Cacophony ..."  in The Jewish Daily Forward (6/11/13)
Adam Fitzgerald, The American Reader, January 2014 
Josh Cook, Bookslut (May 2013)
Caleb Beckwith, Volta     
Tom Beckett, Galatea Resurrects #20 (May 2013)
Reed Cooley, American Reader, vol 1, 5/6  May/June 2013
Mary Weston, Cleaver, #2, Summer 2013
Sean Singer, The Rumpus
"How to Read Charles Bernstein," Poetxt (c. Nov. 2015) 
Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books 
(pdf) (March 2013)
 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."

Don Yorty: video of some poems plus commentary