Excerpt from


What are aesthetic values and why do
there appear to be lesser & fewer of
them? Quick: define the difference
between arpeggio & Armani. The baby
cries because the baby likes crying.
The baby cries because a pin is
sticking into the baby. The baby
is not crying but it is called
crying. Who's on first, what's
shortstop. The man the man declined
to be, appraised at auction at
eighty percent of surface volume.

Charles Bernstein's web page

Interview with Charles Bernstein by Bradford Senning

From my very first essays in the 1970s (collected in Content’s Dream) I have argued against the idea that the sort of poetry we explored, for example in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, was nonreferential. Words are almost always referential, but what many of us were interested in exploring were nonconventional forms, allowing the expressive (and nonexpressive) features of language to roam in different territory than possible with tamer verse forms. So what you get might better be called polyreferential in that the poems do not necessarily mean one fixed, definable, paraphrasable thing. Visual representation typically concerns whether or not a painting ‘‘looks like’’ something identifiable—a landscape, a person, a bowl of Rice Krispies. But what if what is being represented is not a bowl of soup but the soup bowl inside your mind. Then again, what happens if that obscure object of representation is not being represented but created in the process, so it is not a report of some thing seen or known outside the poem but an act of making.

Two poems for Emma Bernstein


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