Me and My Pharaoh . . .

By Charles Bernstein b. 1950 Charles Bernstein
[facsimile]

                                                                 He awoke,

          fully charged. You

                                                       can

                                         bring water to a horse but you can’t

make it ride. All poetry is conceptual

                                                      but some is more

                                                                              conceptual

                        than
     others.

                                   Ambient difficulty leads to poetic

            license. Poetry has

                                                    no purpose

                                                                   &

                                         that is not
                            its

                                                                                      pur-

                                           pose.

You have to get over

          be-

in-
                  g over. April is

                                                     the cruelest month for poetry. And May

                                                                     is not much better, is

                                                           it?

                            Why write in prose what you could write as easily

                                                                                    as

             poetry?

                              The poem is a crutch that allows us to think with

                                                                                                  and throu-

                              g-
                h it.

Every poem must have 13 distinct frames, devices, motifs, styles, forms, or

                                                                                                         concepts.
                                                        Poetry emasculates prose.

                        The body: can’t live with it, can’t live without

       i-
t.

I want to be understood,

                      just not by you.

                                  Last week’s weather is worth a pound of salt, just
                                  like the lot of  wives or the snowy pillars of  Danton.

                          There’s not a crowd in the sky. Familiarity breeds

                   content. Yesterday’s

                                              weather is as

            beyond reach as tomorrow’s

                                                                                                 dreams. The

                                                                            move away from close
                                                              reading often got drowned in the

bathwater, even if   we could never find the baby. I wouldn’t  join a poetic

       tradition that would recognize me as

                                                                                                                          a

                                                                    member. The wheel needs

                    to be reinvented because we’re still

stuck.

      I am for almost new art (gently used forms) — easier on the pocketbook and on

                                                                             the b-

                             rain (undergarments not accepted). The only true

                                                                        innovation is God’s. Others

                                                                pay cash.

                              This is a lie and that’s the truth.

                                             Better truth in the shade than a lie in the sun.

                              The taste of madeleine ain’t

             what it used to be.

                                                  (taint what it used to be)
    
              ...    

all alone and feeling

                                          ...    

                        Operators are on duty. Call now.


As dry as a bubble, as expectant as the dead

                            of night. Without product placement, poetry
                            as we know it

                                                                              cannot sur-

vive.

                      Poetry should not be in the service of art any more than religion, ideology,
                      or morality. Poetry should be in the service of nothing — and not even
                      that.

                       If  you can identify someone as gnostic they are probably

                     not

gnostic enough,

                                                     for my money.

            I believe in my disbelief, have faith in my reason.

                      The sacred in a poem is nowhere seen and everywhere

                      felt. There’s

                more to transgression than

                                                                           ritual, but not enough

more. There is more

               to liturgy than doctrine,

       once in a blue

                                                               m-

                                                                                    oo-
                   n.

I left my purpose in my other pants.

       You’re not the only paddle in the ocean, shadow in the dark, line in
       the poem, lobster in the trap, pot on the stove, wheel on the truck,
       letter on the keypad, scythe in the field, lever on the controls, cloud
       in the sky, fruit in the tree, rat in the lab.

                 Reality is usually a poor copy of the imitation. The original
            is an echo of what is yet to be.

                                  Time is neither linear nor circular; it is excremental.

       Beauty is the memory of the loss of time.

                                    Memory
                                    is
                                    the
                                    reflection
                                    of
                                    the
                                    loss
                                    of
                                    beauty.

               American poetry suffers from its lack of

     uncreativity. I have no faith in faith, or hope
                                  for hope, no belief  in belief, no doubt of doubt.

                                                        They say God is in the details. That’s
                                                  because the Devil has the rest

                                   covered.

God is weak and imaginary — a flickering possibility. The dogma of an
omniscient and omnipotent God maligns hope and denies the sacred, as
it turns its back on the world.

        God has no doctrine, no morality, no responsibility. To sin against
    God is to use that name to justify any action or prohibition, whether
    murder or martyrdom.

I’ve got authenticity, you’ve got dogma  ...    proclaimeth the Lord.

                                                    Saying one more time:
                                                    It’s true but I don’t believe it
                                                    I believe it but it’s not so.

                           “My logic is all in the melting pot.”
                                                                 [wittgenstein]

Better an old cow than a dead
                           horse. Alzheimer’s:

                                       What’s that again? So it turns out I’m

               not a bull in a china shop but china in a

                                          bulls’

                                                             shop. Sometimes a penis is just a s-

                                                            y-
                              m-

                                                    b-
                      ol.

In their gloom, the Jews go and come
Talking of Bergen-Belsen.

                                         (I saw time but it didn’t return my gaze.)

             My heart is like a water bucket that returns from the river

                                                                          seven times full eighth

                          empty.

                                     Zeno and Heraklitus are my father’s milk.

                          I think with the poem not thr-

                                     ou-

      g-

h

                                                  it. Turns

                                    of phrase / my stock in

              trade. Negative
              capability: sure.
              But also
              positive

                                                             incapacity. I always

                                                                         hear echoes and reverses

when I am listening to language. It’s

                                              the field of my consciousness.

                                When we stop making — manufacturing,
                                                  imposing — sense then we have a chance

                   to find it.

A professional poet throws nothing out except the eggshells and the coffee grounds.

                  I think the idea is to be unoriginal but in as original a way a-
                  s possible.

           Poets are the Pershings

                                      of the imaginary: piercing

                        themselves as they perish

                                                                         in spite of native ground.

                                                           I wish I was still in my pajamas.

The unironized life is not worth living.

                                                       When people tell that joke, three Jews
                    four opinions, what they don’t say is that two of them,
                    the schmucks, have the same opinion, while the third ...    

Ouzo something to me and it ain’t pretty.

          Absinthe makes the heart gro-

w

                          foreigner.

“Throughout this prospectus, ‘object’ refers to the digitized file.”

Yesterday is a stone’s throw from tomorrow

              & each new year a vast canvas of impossibility.

                                       Kalip in North Folk, you’re on the air.

              Stand clear of the clo-

                                  sing


                                                                         doors.


                                                    Too much is still

not enough.


                                                    Blameless as a sheep at slaughter, am I
                                                    Guileless as the toll of tidal tug

                                                                 There are no absolutes except this.

                                      It was a veritable bow across the shot.

                          “Sacred means saturated with being.”
                                                                 [berssenbrugge]

So does scared. So does scarred.

Source: Poetry (April 2014).

 Charles  Bernstein

Biography

Poet, essayist, theorist, and scholar Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry.  Bernstein was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In the mid-1970s Bernstein became active in the experimental . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Philosophy, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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