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Charles Bernstein Biography

(1950– ), L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E

poetry ‘the language poetic

American poet, born in New York, educated at Harvard; he became David Gray Professor of Poetry at the State University of New York at Buffalo, successor to Robert Creeley. Editor of L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E with Bruce Andrews, editor of The Politics of Poetic Form (1990), author of two collections of essays Content's Dream (1986) and A Poetics (1992), he has done as much as anyone to publicize and theorize Language Poetry in which ‘the text calls upon the reader to be actively involved in the process of constituting its meaning’. Hence his joke about romanticism in poetry: ‘Poetry is like a swoon, with this difference: | it brings you to your senses’ (‘The Klupzy Girl’). This conviction of the power of radical formal experimentation to challenge the ‘incredible amount of illusory materiality’ in contemporary culture results in a witty, sometimes comic or satiric collaging of different discourses ranging from personal statements, official jargon, science, and traditional poetic language. He writes mostly shorter poems, collected in books such as Controlling Interests (1980), Resistance (1983), The Sophist (1987), The Absent Father in Dumbo (1990), and Dark City (1994); an edited collection, Live at the Ear, appeared in 1994. His poems are capable of a bravura lyricism, elegant musical phrasing, and complex puns in an impressive range of styles.

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