Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Charles Bernstein: Charles Alexander introduction

Charles Alexander, introduction of POG reading, Oct. 10, 2020

Tonight we have the pleasure of premiering a video featuring the poets Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Charles Bernstein.
     Both of these poets are no strangers to POG or Chax Press or Tucson. In fact, our relationships go back to the early 1980s, before POG began, and have continues to the present -- a relationship built of readings, conversations, books, and what I think of as community-building, which is really at the heart of what POG does, and what we poets in our various connective tissues help to put together with everything we do. These two poets are at the centers of POG's concern to help keep innovative poetry and poetics alive through our presentations to public audiences, and, now, to online public audiences. Both Berssenbrugge and Bernstein are veterans of a wave, a lifetime, invested in creating kinds of poetry that test the llimits of what our literature might include, and in doing so, they inspire what POG has always sought to accomplish.
     Berssenbrugge, in her many books (Hiddenness, Empathy, Mizu, Hello the Roses, Endocrinology, and many more, including the recent A Treatise on Stars, finalist for the National Book Award at present) has sought to create a space for the mind, the breath, the perceptions, to intertwine in long lines which draw in and include the reader in a variety of observations and meditations based on the world in which we live and think, and the impacts of such life & thought. Long ago, Mei-mei told me that she had made two important commitments for and through her work -- to the sentence, and to beauty. She has also, in the course of her oeuvre, entirely interrogated those two notions, how they might work, what they might mean, how we might find beauty, and what we may have to say about it. We are fortunate witnesses to her imagination, which I find nothing less than visionary. In the company of such writers as William Blake and Hildegarde of Bingen, she expands us.
     Charles Bernstein functions as something like a dean of our innovative or avant-garde poetics, yet what a funny, inquisitive, and sometimes unsettling dean. He can hypnotize us with what seems like a comic routine that then turns to a socio-poetic point we can not fail to hear, and by which we cannot fail to be moved. He seems sometimes emotionally distanced from us, then might read an elegy in which the heart is before us, entirely open and unprotected. Charles has taught at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Pennsylvania, and held endowed chair positions at both of these universities, in fact, while he was there, contributed strongly to those places being among the most key sites of the most exploratory American poetics of our time. In books like The Sophist, Content's Dream, Pitch of Poetry, Fool's Gold, and many more, he has contributed poems, essays, and artistic collaborations (often with his partner, the painter Susan Bee) which have not let us rest from our constant redefinitions not only of what poetry might be, but of who we might be. In 2019 he received the Bollingen Prize, the highest poetry prize in America. But like Berssenbrugge, who is a lifetime friend of Bernstein, it's not about prizes or nations. Both are internationally renowned, and both simply work, constantly, on behalf of our collective minds, practices, and societies.
     It is my sheer joy to introduce their videos tonight.