Pitch of Poetry

cover photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald

University of Chicago Press, Spring 2016 (352 pages |  6 x 9) 

Praised in recent years as a “calculating, improvisatory, essential poet” by Daisy Fried in the New York Times, Charles Bernstein is a leading voice in American literary theory. Pitch of Poetry is his irreverent guide to modernist and contemporary poetics.


Publisher’s Weekly (Jan. 2016)
Library Journal (March 2016)
Jake Marmer, “A Jellyfish With a Jew’s Ear, for the Millions: Avant-garde trickmaster Charles Bernstein’s mass appeal is evident in his new collection of essays,” Tablet Magazine (March 19, 2016)
Frank Davy, “Bernstein’s More Perfect Pitch of Poetry,” London Poetry Mic (April 2016)
Al Filreis, Jacket2 (April 12, 2016): short videos from launch (Filreis, final aphorisms); full event (scroll to 4/12/2016)
John Amen, “Pitch of Poetry: Iterations of the Avant Garde,”X-Peri (April, 2016)
Li Zhimin, “Cut continuously for more perfection: Reflections of Charles Bernstein’s avant-garde poetics on basis of Pitch of Poetry,” Foreign Literature Studies, Oct. 2016.
Jules Smith, “Charles Bernstein’s Aesthetic Probe,” TLSSept. 2, 2016
Australian Book Review, John Hawke, “Making Strange: An Instructive Introduction to Bernstein’s Energetic Advocacy,” Oct. 2016 
Choice,Highly Recommended, Jan. 2017
Art in America, March 2017
Tim Dean, ALH Online Review, Series X, April 2017
Douglas Messerli, Hyperallergic (April 9, 1017)
J. Peter Moore, American Literature,Volume 89, Number 4, December 2017

2016 Best Lists
The Guardian, Amit Chaudhuri
The Rumpus, Barbara Berman
Eyewear, Todd Swift
Derek Beaulieu blog
pdf of these lists here
Choice: Outstanding Academic Titles

Subjects range across Holocaust representation, Occupy Wall Street, and the figurative nature of abstract art. Detailed overviews of formally inventive work include essays on — or “pitches” for — a set of key poets, from Gertrude Stein and Robert Creeley to John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Larry Eigner, and Leslie Scalapino. Bernstein also reveals the formative ideas behind the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. The final section, published here for the first time, is a sweeping work on the poetics of stigma, perversity, and disability that is rooted in the thinking of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Blake.

Pitch of Poetry makes an exhilarating case for what Bernstein calls echopoetics: a poetry of call and response, reason and imagination, disfiguration and refiguration. 

Craig Dworkin, author of No Medium:
“The traits and energies that made Bernstein, the foremost poet-critic of our time, a leading figure of the 1980s-era avant-garde have continued unabated: a fearless willingness to challenge orthodoxy and to risk his own position by openly trying out new arguments and approaches; an original independence of thought; an uncannily prescient foresight; and a restless intellectual curiosity. In short: Bernstein’s genuinely experimental nature means that he is constantly proving new ground, reassessing the theoretical and poetical terrain, and revising even his own claims. In the process, he transforms our sense not only of the present but of the possible.”

Pierre Joris, author of Barzakh: Poems 2000–2012:
Pitch of Poetry is wide-ranging, protean, exhilarating. Refreshingly polemical and polemically refreshing. As someone who has read Bernstein since his very first books, I am impressed most by his ability to retread his thinking and discover new angles to old routes. This is criticism that makes up its own rules and then doesn’t follow those either.”