the odd mass appeal of Avant-garde poet Charles Bernstein

Charles-bernsteinJake Marmer at Tablet:

Avant-garde poets are supposed to be difficult and incomprehensible, forgotten and miserable. The density ofdiscourse around Bernstein’s work, combined with the impressive number of domestic and international awards and distinctions he’s received in recent years, continues to baffle and inspire. The new collection of Bernstein’s essays Pitch of Poetry finally offers some insight into the seeming paradox of his mass appeal: For all of its classic avant-garde tropes—complexity, insider references, and elitism—the collection is also irresistibly entertaining, chatty, and thought-provoking—philosophically, politically, and technologically.

In the late 1970s, Charles Bernstein, along with poet Bruce Andrews, launched L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, a now-legendary literary journal. The journal’s name became both the signpost for a new literary community and a loosely defined set of poetic affinities shared by that community’s members. In an overview of the key tendencies associated with Language poetry, Bernstein points to the “new approach to the essay, averting exposition in favor of wild combinations, shifts of mood and tone, hyperbole, enigma, lyric exuberance, rhythmic propulsion, telegraphic immediacy, digression, aphorism, contradiction, investigation, and dialogue.”

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