Poetry News

Jake Marmer Reviews Charles Bernstein's Pitch of Poetry at Tablet

By Harriet Staff


For Tablet Magazine, Jake Marmer dives in to Charles Bernstein's newest collection of essays Pitch of Poetry. According to Marmer, Bernstein's Pitch is "irresistibly entertaining, chatty, and thought-provoking—philosophically, politically, and technologically." (We can't wait to read it!) More:

A young poet opens his Facebook feed and it’s been taken over by pictures of the budget-friendly chef Rachael Ray. What’s more, all of the young poet’s obscure poet-friends are liking the pictures. But the joke, as always, is on the young poet who could not fathom how he and Ray could possibly share a taste in poetry: Rachael Ray and her husband renewed their vows outside of an Italian castle, and as part of the ceremony Ray did read a poem by the avant-garde poet-trickster, theorist, philosopher, professor, and literary critic Charles Bernstein.

Avant-garde poets are supposed to be difficult and incomprehensible, forgotten and miserable. The density of discourse 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.”

Read on at Tablet.

Originally Published: March 21st, 2016