Pitch of Poetry

University of Chicago Press
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Praised in recent years as a “calculating, improvisatory, essential poet” by Daisy Fried in the New York Times, Charles Bernstein is a leading voice in American literary theory. Pitch of Poetry is his irreverent guide to modernist and contemporary poetics.

Subjects range across Holocaust representation, Occupy Wall Street, and the figurative nature of abstract art. Detailed overviews of formally inventive work include essays on—or “pitches” for—a set of key poets, from Gertrude Stein and Robert Creeley to John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Larry Eigner, and Leslie Scalapino. Bernstein also reveals the formative ideas behind the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. The final section, published here for the first time, is a sweeping work on the poetics of stigma, perversity, and disability that is rooted in the thinking of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Blake.

Pitch of Poetry makes an exhilarating case for what Bernstein calls echopoetics: a poetry of call and response, reason and imagination, disfiguration and refiguration.
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About the author

Charles Bernstein is the Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is codirector of PennSound. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of many books, including, most recently, Recalculating, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Mar 28, 2016
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780226332116
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Poetry
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Long anticipated, Recalculating is Charles Bernstein’s first full-length collection of new poems in seven years. As a result of this lengthy time under construction, the scope, scale, and stylistic variation of the poems far surpasses Bernstein’s previous work. Together, the poems of Recalculating take readers on a journey through the history and poetics of the decades since the end of the Cold War as seen through the lens of social and personal turbulence and tragedy. The collection’s title, the now–familiar GPS expression, suggests a change in direction due to a mistaken or unexpected turn. For Bernstein, formal invention is a necessary swerve in the midst of difficulty. As in all his work since the 1970s, he makes palpable the idea that radically new structures, appropriated forms, an aversion to received ideas and conventions, political engagement, and syntactic novelty will open the doors of perception to exuberance and resonance, from giddiness to pleasure to grief. But at the same time he cautions, with typical deflationary ardor, “The pen is tinier than the sword.” In these poems, Bernstein makes good on his claim that “the poetry is not in speaking to the dead but listening to the dead.” In doing so, Recalculating incorporates translations and adaptations of Baudelaire, Cole Porter, Mandelstam, and Paul Celan, as well as several tributes to writers crucial to Bernstein’s work and a set of epigrammatic verse essays that combine poetics with wry observation, caustic satire, and aesthetic slapstick. Formally stunning and emotionally charged, Recalculating makes the familiar strange—and in a startling way, makes the strange familiar. Into these poems, brimming with sonic and rhythmic intensity, philosophical wit, and multiple personae, life events intrude, breaking down any easy distinction between artifice and the real. With works that range from elegy to comedy, conceptual to metrical, expressionist to ambient, uproarious to procedural, aphoristic to lyric, Bernstein has created a journey through the dark striated by bolts of imaginative invention and pure delight.
Peter Balakian is a renowned poet, scholar, and memoirist; but his work as an essayist often prefigures and illuminates all three. "I think of vise and shadow as two dimensions of the lyric (literary and visual) imagination," he writes in the preface to this collection, which brings together essayistic writings produced over the course of twenty-five years. Vise, "as in grabbing and holding with pressure," but also in the sense of the vise-grip of the imagination, which can yield both clarity and knowledge. Consider the vise-grip of some of the poems of our best lyric poets, how language might be put under pressure "as carbon might be put under pressure to create a diamond." And shadow, the second half of the title: both as noun, "the shaded or darker portion of the picture or view or perspective," "partial illumination and partial darkness"; and as verb, to shadow, "to trail secretly as an inseparable companion" or a "force that follows something with fidelity; to cast a dark light on something—a person, an event, an object, a form in nature."

Vise and Shadow draws into conversation such disparate figures as W. B. Yeats, Hart Crane, Joan Didion, Primo Levi, Robert Rauschenberg, Bob Dylan, Elia Kazan, and Arshile Gorky, revealing how the lyric imagination of these artists grips experience, "shadows history," and "casts its own type of illumination," creating one of the deepest kinds of human knowledge and sober truth. In these elegantly written essays, Balakian offers a fresh way to think about the power of poetry, art, and the lyrical imagination as well as history, trauma, and memory.
This collection brings together representative work from Sina Queyras’s poetic oeuvre. Queyras is at the forefront of contemporary discussions of genre, gender, and criticism of poetry. Her influential blog-turned-literary-magazine, Lemon Hound, published up-and-coming writers as well as work by established literary figures in Canada and abroad.

The title, Barking & Biting, makes reference to the tagline of Lemon Hound: “more bark than bite.” Erin Wunker’s introduction situates Queyras’s poetry within ongoing debates around genre and gender. It suggests that Queyras’s writing, be it literary critical, poetic, or prose, is precise and probing but avoids toothless critical positioning. It pays particular attention to Queyras’s poetic innovations and intertextual references to other women writers, and suggests that read together Queyras’s oeuvre embodies an engaged feminist attention—what Joan Retallack has called a “poethics,” where poetry and ethics are bound together as a mode of inquiry and aesthetics.

Queyras’s poems trace a consistent concern with both poetic genealogies and the status of women. Thus far, twenty-first century poetics have been preoccupied with two ongoing conversations: the perceived divide between lyric and conceptual writing, and the underrepresentation of women and other non-dominant subjects. While these two topics may seem epistemologically and ethically separate, they are in fact irrevocably intertwined. Questions of form are, at their root, questions of visibility and recognizability. Will the reader know a poem when she sees it? And will that seeing alter her perception of the world? And how is the form of the poem altered, productively or un-, by the identity politics of its author? These are the questions that undergird Queyras’s poetry and guide the editorial selections.

Queyras’s poetics pay dogged attention to questions of both representation and genre. In each of her poetry collections she inhabits tenets of the traditional lyric but leverages the genre open to let conceptualism in. This is demonstrated in her afterword, “Lyric Conceptualism, a Manifesto in Progress,” which was first published on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog. In it Queyras puts forward a set of maxims about the possibilities of a new hybrid, the conceptual lyric poem.

"Verse is born free but everywhere in chains. It has been my project to rattle the chains." (from "The Revenge of the Poet-Critic")

In My Way, (in)famous language poet and critic Charles Bernstein deploys a wide variety of interlinked forms—speeches and poems, interviews and essays—to explore the place of poetry in American culture and in the university. Sometimes comic, sometimes dark, Bernstein's writing is irreverent but always relevant, "not structurally challenged, but structurally challenging."

Addressing many interrelated issues, Bernstein moves from the role of the public intellectual to the poetics of scholarly prose, from vernacular modernism to idiosyncratic postmodernism, from identity politics to the resurgence of the aesthetic, from cultural studies to poetry as a performance art, from the small press movement to the Web. Along the way he provides "close listening" to such poets as Charles Reznikoff, Laura Riding, Susan Howe, Ezra Pound, Allen Ginsberg, and Gertrude Stein, as well as a fresh perspective on L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the magazine he coedited that became a fulcrum for a new wave of North American writing.

In his passionate defense of an activist, innovative poetry, Bernstein never departs from the culturally engaged, linguistically complex, yet often very funny writing that has characterized his unique approach to poetry for over twenty years. Offering some of his most daring work yet—essays in poetic lines, prose with poetic motifs, interviews miming speech, speeches veering into song—Charles Bernstein's My Way illuminates the newest developments in contemporary poetry with its own contributions to them.

"The result of [Bernstein's] provocative groping is more stimulating than many books of either poetry or criticism have been in recent years."—Molly McQuade, Washington Post Book World

"This book, for all of its centrifugal activity, is a singular yet globally relevant perspective on the literary arts and their institutions, offered in good faith, yet cranky and poignant enough to not be easily ignored."—Publishers Weekly

"Bernstein has emerged as postmodern poetry's sous-chef of insouciance. My Way is another of his rich concoctions, fortified with intellect and seasoned with laughter."—Timothy Gray, American Literature
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