Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, & Implausibly Deniable Links
I love originality so much I keep copying it.
Immature poets borrow. Mature poets invest.
POETRY WANTS TO BE FREE. (Or, if not, available for long-term loan.)
I’m the derivative product of an originality that spawns me as it spurns me.
The work of art “itself” does not exist, only incommensurable social contexts through which it emerges and into which it vanishes.
The author dies. The author’s work is born.
Poetry is a secret society hiding in plain sight, open to ear and mind’s eye.
The shock of the new for some, the invigorating tonic of the contemporary for others.
A work of art is the overlay of a set of incommensurable possibilities, linked together around an original vanishing point.
CONCEPTUAL POETRY IS POETRY PREGNANT WITH THOUGHT.
(The absence of conception had itself to be conceived.)
THE POET IS A LIAR.(Poetry abhors a narrative.)
THE POET IS A LYRE.
THE POET’S TIRED.
“I did not paint it to be understood, but I wished to show what such a scene was like.”—J.M.W. Turner (1842)
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y: a loose affliation of unlike individuals.
Which reminds me of the story of the man who reports a wife-beating to a neighbor. “Then stop beating her,” the neighbor replies. “But it’s not my wife!” replies the good Samaritan, becoming agitated. “That’s even worse!” says his neighbor.
No parodist goes unpunished because in these times the parodist is pilloried for the views he or she parodies. In a world of moral discourse absent ethical engagement, only the self-righteous go unrebuked.
I was born yesterday . . . and’ll die tomorrow.
This is so & so is this
But neither is important.
That is theirs
& near’s not here
But neither is important.
Never twill, never twine
Nor peep nor bleat nor pipe.
CARPE DIEM: CARP AND DIE.
I am not the man I was much less the one I will be nor imagine myself as, just the person I almost am.
A bird calls but I hear only its song.
My skin is burning but inside I am as cold as the North Pole.
My shivering is metaphysical, a kind of involuntary davening.
Religion is giving religion a bad name.
Nor am I an atheist. I believe in the fallible gods of thought and in my resistance to these gods. I have faith in my aversion of faith.
Take care not to define yourself against others’ belief systems. Their God does not define the domain of my profane, their Devil does not wash away my sins.
The water colors in watercolors.
I’m an observant Jew. I look closely at the things around me, as if they were foreign.
Sandy as a sugar donut, salty as a red rose . . .
You’re either awake or asleep or will be.
I am not a secular man, but in moments of crisis I turn to agnosticism for the comfort it gives in freeing me from superstition. Once, when gravely ill and sure I would die at any minute, I embraced agnosticism, and, with Nietzsche in hand, swore I would remain an agnostic even if I recovered. But once I did recover, I lapsed again into religious belief, feeling the danger was over and it was safe to return to my old ways. Still, the fear of dying under the veil of dogma still grips my soul late in the night and I yearn for the courage to embrace reality without prophylactics.
My mind is a labyrinth with well-lit exit signs; as much as I try, I can’t ignore them. When I take leave of my mind I put myself in the care of my brain. In this way, I become again the animal to which my mind is blind.
There’s no depth to the depth.
In the world of the imagination, impossible just means the next opportunity to get real.
The ceremony of sorrow is performed with a measured, defiant acknowledgement that makes words charms, talismans of the fallen world. Poetry is a holding space, a folded grace, in which objects held most dear disappear, returning as radiant moments of memory’s forgiving home. [for Akilah Oliver]
Existence needs essence the way a walking tour needs local color.
But a hole in an argument is not the same as a point of light.
Rather than an expression of love, justice is a protection against our inability to love.
We are most familiar with our estrangement; it is our home ground.
The absence of an accent is also an accent.
Yet the Dark, untouched by light, injures it all the same.
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...