Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Charles Bernstein, Sophist

Cross posted from Matt Brigg's Seattle Local Reading Blog.  The Bernstein reading at the Henry Art Gallery is Thursday at 7p.  Free admission.
Nothing can contain the empty stare that ricochets
haphazardly against any purpose.

Both comedic and political, Charles Bernstein’s work embraces a slapstick economy of words that questions the very things writers hold most dear. I’ve always thought that the title of his book The Sophist effectively names the provocative place in which he finds himself. Like the sophists, he is an educator who hopes to address all citizens, not just those citizens of the so-called poetry world. Like the sophists, it’s speaking and thinking well that matters. There is no universal (or consistent) truth in his poetics. Of course this sort of position opens him to endless attacks.

Charlie Altieri, who lived in Seattle for a long time teaching at UW, once referred to Bernstein’s work as an “errant singularity.” While that might sound like a beautiful compliment, Altieri meant that Bernstein’s poetry would prove to be unteachable, and thus was limited.

A true performer, Bernstein wants to implode stodgy ideals by providing an experience to the listener/reader that will cause her to think. He quite often succeeds. Even those whom (quaintly) want to expel him from the city will find themselves provoked.

Bernstein is really an ambassador for poetry, as well as a prolific poet and scholar. He’s been instrumental in the creation of the electronic poetry archive and pennsound. He tirelessly works to generate enthusiasm for what poetry can become.

Don’t miss him. This is the first time he's been here since an appearance at Bumbershoot something like 15 years ago.