Charles Bernstein Analysis

Other literary forms

Charles Bernstein has written collections of essays, including Artifice of Absorption (1987), Content’s Dream: Essays, 1975-1984 (1986), and A Poetics (1992). In Content’s Dream, Bernstein examines the difference and connection between poetry and prose and also argues against the current critical establishment and its institutionalized encouragement of homogenized mainstream poetry. A Poetics looks at poetics, philosophy, and the social aspects of text. Bernstein also published A Conversation with David Antin (2002) and My Way: Speeches and Poems (1999). Bernstein has written the libretti for operas, and he translated Red, Green, and Black (1990) by Olivier Cadiot and The Maternal Drape (1984) by Claude Royet-Journoud. Bernstein’s poetry has appeared in several editions of The Best American Poetry series. His work has also regularly appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Poetry magazine, and Critical Inquiry.


Charles Bernstein is a foundational member of the Language poets and has been honored for his poetry and his teaching. He received the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize by the University of California in 1999 for his lifetime contributions to poetry and literary scholarship, and he was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. From 1990 to 2003, Bernstein was the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo and director of the poetics program, which he cofounded with Robert Creeley. He was appointed a State University of New York Distinguished Professor in 2002. He received the Dean’s Award for Innovation in Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. He was the recipient of a number of prestigious fellowships, which include the William Lyon Mackenzie King Fellowship at Simon Fraser University (1973), the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship (1980), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1985), the University of Auckland Foundation Fellowship (1986), and New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowships in 1995 and 1990.


Bernstein, Charles. “A Conversation with Charles Bernstein.” Interview by David Caplan. Antioch Review 62, no. 1 (Winter, 2004): 131-141. Bernstein and Caplan talk about what makes poetry innovative and about Bernstein’s interest in exploring the vernacular. There is also discussion of Bernstein’s thoughts on metric poetry and free verse, as well as his ideas for teaching poetry in the classroom.

_______. “An Interview with Charles Bernstein.” Interview by Allison M. Cummings and Rocco Marinaccio. Contemporary Literature 41, no. 1 (Spring, 2000): 1-21. Bernstein speaks about both his commitment to poetic language as a vehicle for “truths” rather than Truth and his intention to liberate language from the depleted mines of mainstream poetic conventions.

Golding, Alan. “Charles Bernstein and Professional Avant-Gardism.” Talisman (Winter, 2009): 29-42. Looks at Bernstein’s career as an avant-garde poet.

Hennessey, Michael S. “From Text to Tongue to Tape: Notes on Charles Bernstein’s ’1-100.’” English Studies in Canada 33, no. 4 (December, 2007): 67-72. The essay on an early recording of Bernstein’s, “1-100,” talks about how Bernstein underscores the semantic tension between the performance of the words and the words themselves, downplaying the latter for the sake of the former.

McGuirk, Kevin. “Rough Trades: Charles Bernstein and the Currency of Poetry.” Canadian Review of American Studies 27, no. 3 (1997): 205-214. Discussion of Rough Trades examines whether Bernstein’s poetry is marked by trade and talks about how Bernstein’s name typically functions as a metonym for Language poetry.

Mack, Anne, Georg Mannejc, and J. J. Rome. “Private Enigmas and Critical Functions with Particular Reference to the Writing of Charles Bernstein.” New Literary History 2 (Spring, 1991) 441-464. Explores Bernstein’s arbitrary construction of poetry, which can combine various allusions, for example, in one poem, or seemingly disconnected segments that reference Lord Byron and nursery doggerel.

Nathanson, Tenney. “Collage and Pulverization in Contemporary American Poetry: Charles Bernstein’s Controlling Interests.” Contemporary Literature 33, no. 2 (Summer, 1992): 302-318. Looks at Bernstein’s use of disenchantment with unimpeded narrative, focusing on Controlling Interests.

Quinn, Paul. “Bernstein’s Republics: The Horizon of Language.” PN Review 27, no. 2 (2000): 32-35. Discusses how Bernstein’s poetic thinking can serve as a model of an autonomous, creative society.