Charles Bernstein was born in New York City to Jewish parents and grew up near Central Park. His father worked in the garment industry. Bernstein attended the Bronx High School of Science, where he edited the school newspaper. He entered Harvard in 1968, the same year he met his future wife, Susan Bee. During his university years, Bernstein protested against the Vietnam War and worked on the freshman literary magazine. He also published Writing, a photocopied magazine. Bernstein wrote his senior thesis on two writers who influenced his later poetry, Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In 1973, Bernstein received the William Lyon Mackenzie King Fellowship at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. From there, Bernstein moved to Santa Barbara, California, where he worked part-time at a community free clinic. Bernstein spent about twenty years working as a medical and healthcare editor and writer; this experience has partially informed his poetry. Bernstein also served as the associate director of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) Artists Project.
In 1975, Bernstein and Bee moved back to New York; they married two years later and had two children, Emma and Felix. Bernstein became very active in the New York poetry scene. Bernstein and his wife founded Asylum’s Press, which published his first two books, Asylums and Parsing. In 1978, he and Ted Greenwald established the Ear Inn series, which...
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