Charles Bernstein

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Charles Bernstein
Charles Bernstein, New Zealand, 1986
Born (1950-04-04) April 4, 1950 (age 68)
EducationBronx High School of Science (1968)
Alma materHarvard College (AB, 1972)
Occupationpoet, essayist, editor, professor
EmployerUniversity of Pennsylvania
Notable work
Republics of Reality: 1975-1995, All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, Attack of the Difficult Poems"Essays and Inventions, Recalculating
Spouse(s)Susan Bee
ChildrenEmma Bee Bernstein, Felix Bernstein
AwardsRoy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize, Guggenheim, NEA[1]

Charles Bernstein (born April 4, 1950) is an American poet, essayist, editor, and literary scholar. Bernstein holds the Donald T. Regan Chair in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania.[2] He is one of the most prominent members of the Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets). In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[3] In 2005, Bernstein was awarded the Dean's Award for Innovation in Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania.[4] Educated at Harvard College, he has been visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Creative Writing at Columbia University, the University at Buffalo, Brown University, and Princeton University. A volume of Bernstein's selected poetry from the past thirty years, All the Whiskey in Heaven, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In the same year that FSG released his major collection, Chax Press released "Umbra," a collection of Bernstein's latest translations of poems from multiple languages. The Salt Companion to Charles Bernstein was published in 2012 Salt Publishing. Bernstein served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Poetry, Poetics, and Theory at Princeton University in the Fall Term of 2011. In May of the same year, The University of Chicago Press released Bernstein's collection of essays, Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions.

Early life and work[edit]

Bernstein was born in New York City to a Jewish family and attended the Bronx High School of Science, graduating in 1968. Bernstein then matriculated at Harvard College, where he majored in philosophy and studied the work of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein[5] under Stanley Cavell, a seminal figure in ordinary language philosophy. Cavell would oversee Bernstein's thesis, a study that pursued the aesthetic and poetic possibilities of the amalgamation of analytical philosophy and avant-garde literature. After graduating from Harvard in 1972, his first book, Asylums, was published in 1975. Together with Bruce Andrews he edited the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which ran to 13 issues between 1978 and 1981.[6] This is routinely considered to be the starting point of Language Poetry and was the most significant outlet for both the progressive poetry and progressive poetic theory taking place in New York City and Berkeley. He has said about the creation of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, "We tried to trace a history of radical poetics, taking up the model presented in Jerome Rothenberg’s Revolution of the Word, and later by Rothenberg and Pierre Joris in Poems for the Millennium and Marjorie Perloff in The Futurist Moment. When you go back 30 years, you see that poetics that now are widely accepted as foundational for contemporary poetry were harshly rejected then."[7] Bernstein and Andrews published selected pieces from these 13 issues in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. During this period, Bernstein also published three more books of his own poetry, Parsing (1976), Shade (1978) and Poetic Justice (1979), while earning a living as a freelance medical writer.[8]

Recent life and works[edit]

Charles Bernstein (right) with Patricia Spears Jones at the Kelly Writers House in 2016.

From 1989 to 2003, Bernstein was David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the University at Buffalo, where he was a SUNY Distinguished Professor and co-founder and Director of the Poetics Program.[9] He is also, with Loss Pequeño Glazier, co-founder of The Electronic Poetry Center at Buffalo. He is currently the Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is co-founder of the poetry audio archive PennSound.[10] He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and of the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize of the University of California, San Diego. With his translators, Bernstein won the 2015 Münster Prize for International for two German translations.[11] In the same year, he won the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry.[12] Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.[13]

Since 1980, he has published a further eighteen books of poetry, as well as editing a number of anthologies of prose and verse. Working with the composers Ben Yarmolinsky, Dean Drummond, and Brian Ferneyhough, he has written the libretti for five operas and has collaborated with a number of visual artists, including his wife, Susan Bee, Richard Tuttle, and Mimi Gross. Bernstein's Poetry has appeared in four editions of David Lehman's The Best American Poetry series, most recently in the 2008 edition. His work has also regularly appeared in Harper's Magazine, Poetry Magazine, and Critical Inquiry. While Bernstein has supported small presses throughout his career, he has also published on such mainstream academic presses as Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, Northwestern University Press, and, most recently, The University of Chicago Press, which has published his last three major works. The publication of All the Whiskey in Heaven by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2010 was his most commercial endeavor to date. He has said about his work, "It’s true that, on the one hand, I mock and destabilize the foundation of a commitment to lyric poetry as an address toward truth or toward sincerity. But, on the other hand, if you’re interested in theory as a stable expository mode of knowledge production or critique moving toward truth, again, I should be banned from your republic. (I’ve already been banned from mine.) My vacillating poetics of poems and essays is a serial practice, a play of voices."[7]

He appeared in the 2000 movie Finding Forrester as Dr. Simon[14] and in a series of 1999 TV commercials with Jon Lovitz for the Yellow Pages.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Charles Bernstein is married to artist Susan Bee.[16] They have had two children, Emma Bee Bernstein [17] (May 16, 1985 – December 20, 2008) and Felix Bernstein [18] (born May 20, 1992). Bernstein was a close friend of poet Hannah Weiner, and is executor of her estate following her death in 1997.


Full-length collections[edit]

  • Near/Miss (University of Chicago Press, 2018)
  • Recalculating (University of Chicago Press, 2013)
  • All the Whiskey in Heaven (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010)
  • Girly Man (University of Chicago Press, 2006)
  • Shadowtime (libretto for an opera with music by Brian Ferneyhough) (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2005)[19]
  • With Strings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)
  • Republics of Reality: 1975-1995 (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 2000)
  • Dark City (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1994)
  • Rough Trades (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1991)
  • The Sophist (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1987; rpt. Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing, 2004)
  • Islets/Irritations (New York: Jordan Davies, 1983; rpt. New York: Roof Books, 1992)
  • The Nude Formalism, with Susan Bee (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1989; rpt Charlottesville, VA: Outside Voices, 2006)
  • Controlling Interests (New York: Roof Books, 1980)
  • L E G E N D, with Bruce Andrews, Steve McCaffery, Ron Silliman, Ray DiPalma (New York: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E/Segue, 1980)
  • Poetic Justice (Baltimore: Pod Books, 1979)
  • Shade (College Park, MD: Sun & Moon Press, 1978)
  • Parsing (New York: Asylum's Press, 1976)
  • Asylums (New York: Asylum's Press, 1975)


  • Attack of the Difficult Poems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011)
  • My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999)
  • A Poetics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992)
  • Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1986; rpt Northwestern University Press, 2001)
  • A Conversation with David Antin (New York: Granary Books, 2002)
  • "Artifice of Absorption: An Essay" (Singing Horse Press, 1987) (Potes & Poets Press, 1988)


  • Modern and Contemporary Poetics, Editor, with Hank Lazer, of a book series from the University of Alabama Press (1998 — )
  • Electronic Poetry Center, Editor, with Loss Pequeno Glazier (1995 — )
  • PENNSound, Director, with Al Filries (2003 — )
  • Poetry Plastique, ed. with Jay Sanders, exhibition catalog (New York: Granary Books / Marianne Boesky Gallery, 2001)
  • 99 Poets/1999: A Special Issue of boundary 2 (Vol.26, No.1: Duke University Press, 1999)
  • Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • LINEbreak: poetry interviews, host/co-producer. Twenty-six 30-minute programs, dist. Public Radio Satellite Program and on the Internet at the EPC (1995–96)
  • Live at the Ear : A CD anthology of Ear Inn readings (Pittsburg: Elemenope Productions, 1994)
  • "13 North American Poets", with Susan Howe, in TXT #31 (Le Mans, France and Bussels: 1993)
  • The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy (NY: Roof, 1990)
  • Patterns/Contexts/Time: A Forum: 1989, with Phillip Foss in Tyuonyi (Sante Fe, 1990).
  • "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Lines" in The Line in Postmodern Poetry, ed. Frank/Sayre (Urbana:
    University of Illinois, 1988)
  • "43 Poets (1984)" in Boundary 2 (Binghamton, 1987)
  • The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, with Bruce Andrews (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984)
  • "Language Sampler" in Paris Review, No. 86 (New York: 1982)
  • L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, with Bruce Andrews (New York: 1978-1981); Vol. 4 co-published as Open Letter 5:1 (Toronto: 1982)
  • Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems, [American Poets Project], (Library of America; distributed by Penguin Putnam, Inc) (New York: 2006)


  • Red, Green, and Black by Olivier Cadiot (Hartford: Potes & Poets, 1990)
  • The Maternal Drape by Claude Royet-Journoud (Windsor, VT: Awede Press, 1984)

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Bernstein, Charles. "CV". Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Department of English". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  3. ^ "American Academy of Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  4. ^ "School of Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E". Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b Sanders, Jay “Charles Bernstein” BOMB Magazine Spring 2010, retrieved August 1, 2011
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-10-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "UB Poetics Program". Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  10. ^ "PennSound: Press Release". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "PennSound: Preiss & Bernstein -- Yellow Pages Ads". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  16. ^ "EPC/Susan Bee Home Page". Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Emma Bee Bernstein". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Felix Bernstein - Welcome". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  19. ^ According to the publisher's website (here) Archived December 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine : "Shadowtime is a thought opera based on the work and life of the German philosopher, essayist, and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin. The libretto was written by Charles Bernstein for composer Brian Ferneyhough and had its premiere in May 2004 at the Munich Biennale, with subsequent productions at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, and the Lincoln Center Festival in New York."

External links[edit]


Others on Bernstein

Interviews with Bernstein