Charles Bernstein was proclaimed by the literary force Marjorie Perloff to be “one of the central chroniclers of our culture.” At the forefront of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, wherein meanings are pluralized and involve not narrative but suggestion, sound, technical ingenuity, and ultimately, derangement/ rearrangement of the senses, he is ever alert to the possibilities of worlds within words. But Bernstein is much more than the sum of the complicated parts that make up Language Poetry; he is a relentless collector of the artifacts of American civilization, which he gleefully tucks into his work.

Author of over thirty books of poetry, essays, and lyrics, Bernstein brings rare wit, irony, and a roving intelligence to his roles as critic, essayist, artist, and musical collaborator. Geoff Ward of the Boston Review praises his latest work, With Strings, for “startling and genuinely new thinking on identity politics, the aesthetic, cultural studies, poetry as performance art, and what Bernstein terms ‘close listenings.’” In his many incarnations, Bernstein has founded a radio poetry series, LINEbreak, explored the juxtaposition of text and art (working with his wife and great collaborator, the artist Susan Bee, on such books as Log Rhythms), as well as creating sly and inventive art himself. He curated, with Jay Sanders, an exhibition of Poetry Plastique, in his words, “not poems about pictures but pictures that are poems.” He has made a specialty of composing vivid yet surreal librettos with the composers Ben Yarmolinsky, Dean Drummond, and Brian Ferneyhough.

In virtually all of this work, Charles Bernstein shines with integrity and humor as an artist/innovator who sees through cultural pretense to the place where the “world of the poem” can be “unsealed,” broken through to as a living, breathing thing: “For my poetry is informed by/ something inside that doesn’t/ flinch & won’t budge. & I/ could never have done it alone./ I may work in the factory but I glide/ to the music of the anemones.”

Honored with the prestigious Roy Harvey Pearce /Archive for New Poetry Prize for his lifetime contribution to poetry and scholarship, fellowships from the Guggenheim and NEA foundations, Bernstein is currently the Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.


Poems by Charles Bernstein

Verdi and Postmodernism

from talk alone you don’t get a poem

the throat


Poetry Center Reading:


Spring 2006 (with Jerome Rothernberg)