With Strings / Edition 1

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A companion to the critically acclaimed My Way, his 1999 montage of essays, conversations, and poems, With Strings catapults Charles Bernstein into the future of American poetry. A compilation of sixty-nine poems in various forms and styles, dating mostly from the 1990s, With Strings is his most buoyant collection to date. With its fractured nursery rhymes, distressed mottoes, runcible riddles, and inscrutable sayings, Bernstein takes us on a poetic trip that swerves from the comic to the political, from the whimsical to the elegiac. The whole presents a densely sounded echo chamber in which a range of themes, moods, and perceptions extend and reverberate.

Charles Bernstein is perhaps best known as one of the founders of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry movement of the 1970s. He remains one of America's liveliest advocates and practitioners of radically inventive poetry. The title of his new collection, With Strings, suggests the lush arrangement of a musical work as well as the unacknowledged implications of our everyday agreements. Just as language binds us together with its associated meanings, With Strings bounces against the ties that rend us apart as they fasten us together. From his samplings of everyday life, to his demented yet sonorous iambic beats, Bernstein has once again created a poetry of our time, for our time, and by our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"These statements are based on current expectations and projects about the aesthetic environment and assumptions made by the author and are not guarantees of future performativity," writes Bernstein in "Today's Not Opposite Day," one of many cagey, slapstick satires in his large new collection. Bernstein has never been an easy pleasure, from the early minimalist sensibility of his Language-oriented work, through his prose poems, collage pieces, and recent poetic incarnation as borscht belt professor. These poems nevertheless reflect a growing comfort with the role of public intellectual and avuncular proselyte for all things radical, marked by a decisive turn toward vaudevillian satire: "the toilet seat is down now/ it's there I plan to sit/ until I find that doggy bag/ I lost while just a kid." Many poems are nail-scratchingly obvious in their form, as in the inverted ballad or "Besotted Desquamation," in which every line in the poem contains four words beginning with the same letter "marshalling muted might majestically," and are in deep engagement with the most mundane modes of culture. This rationale for writing very "bad" poetry makes one put all aesthetic and by extension social and moral judgments in scare quotes, pitting the reader against the very value system that may have brought him or her to the poem itself: "& the moral/ of that is: If you kill the spirit/ in others, you kill it in yourself./ & the moral of that is: Watch the slings and arrows & the automatic/ weapons will get you every time." There is no real way to determine where the plentiful filler ends and reality begins, or where the poem ends and the jacket copy starts, which seems to be Bernstein's entailed,`self'-defeating intent ("suspicion/ in the travail/ made foam"), forcing readers to recognize and confront their formal and ideological chaff. (Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226044606
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 139
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Bernstein is the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition to My Way: Speeches and Poems, he is the author of two collections of essays, A Poetics and Content's Dream, and more than twenty books of poems, including Islets/Irritations and Republics of Reality: 1975-1995.

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Table of Contents

In Place of a Preface a Preface
Thinking I Think I Think 3
Ballad of Blue Green Plate 6
Fiddle of the Rat Faced Men 7
Total Valor 8
But Pharaoh Did Not Listen to Moses 9
Two Places at Once 10
Captain Cappuccino and His Merry Con Leches 11
From Talk Alone You Don't Get a Poem 13
Immanuel Can't but Sammy Can 14
In Between 15
Polynesian Days 16
Nickey, Turn Off the Lights (2) 18
The Age of Correggio and the Carracci 19
Poem 20
Like This 22
The Impunity of Garden Flowers 26
Johnny Cake Hollow 27
The Manufacture of Negative Experience 28
The Knees Have It 34
The Human Abstract 35
Poem Composed for Jackson Mac Low 36
Doggy Bag 39
The Throat 40
Anaffirmation 42
Little Orphan Anagram 43
Common Stock 44
The Smell of Cheap Cigars 48
Max Weber's Favorite Tylenol for Teething 49
American Boy with Bat 51
Cover Up Me for I Cannot Myself Cover 52
Echo Off (Use Other Entrance) 53
Lily's Dream 58
Continuity of Affiliation/Disabling Capacity 59
Memories 61
The Emotional Truth 63
Circumstraint 64
Your Ad Here 68
Empty Biscuits 69
If Gif Were a Place 70
Ruminative Ablution 71
Today's Not Opposite Day 72
Peanut Butter and Jellyfish 78
Mr. Matise in San Diego 79
Egg Under My Feet 80
Low Regrets 81
It's Always Fair Measure 83
Breastworks 84
Besotted Desquamation 85
O! Li Po! 88
Contagious Proximity 89
Windows 95 90
Pinot Blanco 91
My God Has an Attitude Problem 92
The Holler 93
The Inevitable Flow of Material Things Through the Pores of the Years 94
Hoods and Scatters 102
These Horses Do Not Move Up and Down 103
The Stepmother's Hunger 104
"This Us Is Only ..." 105
Ms. Otis Regrets 106
The Boy Soprano 114
No More Cartwheels Off the Dock 115
Frequently Unasked Questions 116
Inturpitude 117
Why We Ask You Not to Touch 118
Make It Snappy & That's Final 119
Sprung Monuments 120
This Poem Intentionally Left Blank 121
Log Rhythms 122
Notes and Acknowledgments 131
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