Introduction for Charles Bernstein (by erica kaufman)
Charles Bernstein's most recent books are Girly Man and With Strings (University of Chicago Press), Shadowtime (Green Integer), and Republics of Reality: 1975-1995 (Sun & Moon). Author page at http://epc.buffalo.edu. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
When I first read Charles Bernstein’s work I remember thinking to myself, “wow, this changes everything.” The book I’d read was Islets/Irritations—a volume full of fluctuations visually, formally, and in its vocabulary. (To quote from the “Klupzy Girl,” “his parables are not singular”).
Bernstein’s prose redefined how I think about essays (to quote from “Revenge of the Poet-Critic,” “a modular essay form that allows for big jumps from paragraph to paragraph and section to section. it becomes possible to recombine the paragraphs to get another version of the essy”). His poems redefined how I think about poetry (to quote from “State of the Art,” poetry tosses up into an imaginary air like to many swans flying out of a magician’s depthless black hat so that suddenly like when the sky all at once turns white or purple or day-glo blue, we breathe more deeply.” or from “A Particular Thing,” “I want in my writing a texture of wordness opaque and alone”).
Bernstein’s newest gem, Girly Man, is a book that proves that “there are no thoughts except through language” (to quote his seminal essay, “Stray Straws and Straw Men”). These poems range from blues to ballad to litany to lament to irony to hilarity to likeness—what a range! To quote “Sign Under Test,” “everything in the world exists in order to end up as an opera.”
Please welcome Charles Bernstein.