Charles Bernstein


Biography of Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein poet

Charles Bernstein (born April 4, 1950) is an American poet, essayist, editor, and literary scholar. Bernstein holds the Donald T. Regan Chair in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is one of the most prominent members of the Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets). In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005, Bernstein was awarded the Dean's Award for Innovation in Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Educated at Harvard College, he has been visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Creative Writing at Columbia University, the University at Buffalo, Brown University, and Princeton University. A volume of Bernstein's selected poetry from the past thirty years, All the Whiskey in Heaven, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In the same year that FSG released his major collection, Chax Press released "Umbra," a collection of Bernstein's latest translations of poems from multiple languages. The Salt Companion to Charles Bernstein was published in 2012 Salt Publishing. Bernstein served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Theory at Princeton University in the Fall Term of 2011. In May of the same year, The University of Chicago Press released Bernstein's collection of essays, Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions.

Bernstein was born in New York City to a Jewish family and attended the Bronx High School of Science, graduating in 1968. Bernstein then matriculated at Harvard College, where he majored in philosophy and studied the work of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein under Stanley Cavell, a seminal figure in ordinary language philosophy. Cavell would oversee Bernstein's thesis, a study that pursued the aesthetic and poetic possibilities of the amalgamation of analytical philosophy and avant-garde literature. After graduating from Harvard in 1972, his first book, Asylums, was published in 1975. Together with Bruce Andrews he edited the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which ran to 13 issues between 1978 and 1981. This is routinely considered to be the starting point of Language Poetry and was the most significant outlet for both the progressive poetry and progressive poetic theory taking place in New York City and Berkeley. He has said about the creation of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, "We tried to trace a history of radical poetics, taking up the model presented in Jerome Rothenberg’s Revolution of the Word, and later by Rothenberg and Pierre Joris in Poems for the Millennium and Marjorie Perloff in The Futurist Moment. When you go back 30 years, you see that poetics that now are widely accepted as foundational for contemporary poetry were harshly rejected then." Bernstein and Andrews published selected pieces from these 13 issues in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. During this period, Bernstein also published three more books of his own poetry, Parsing (1976), Shade (1978) and Poetic Justice (1979), while earning a living as a freelance medical writer.

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Why I Am Not a Buddhist

Reality cons me as it spur(n)s me.
This is the road to eternal
Consanguinity, eloping with
Hope and leaving me to pick
Up the proverbial bag.
But that's the argument for.

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