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Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions Paperback – April 30, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (April 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226044777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226044774
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A superb poet and great inventor of poetry, Charles Bernstein dazzlingly invents the essay for poetry: professing in a gorilla suit and white tuxedo.”
(George Lakoff)

“This is a smart and invigorating book that triumphantly demonstrates Charles Bernstein’s goals and values. Those who want satire, those who want earnest discussion, those who want information, those who want to get a sense of personality, those who want theory, those who want entertainment, even those who wish to be confirmed in their beliefs and those who wish to nurse their resentments, will all find something here.”
(Daisy Fried)

“I regret to inform you that Charles Bernstein’s Attack of the Difficult Poems is highly unsuitable (not suitable) for National Poetry Month. Not suitable for acceptance by the publications of the Modern Language Association or its affiliate, the Annual Convention. Not suitable for readers under the age of five. Not suitable for endorsement by the Paris Review. Not suitable for your average television sitcom. Not suitable for tenure. Not suitable for free distribution. Not suitable for variations in the ontological condition. Not suitable for readers of generic poetry. Not suitable for the MFA. For everyone else: priceless.”
(Tan Lin)

"Bernstein, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a remarkably prolific author, essayist and critic, not only defends difficult poems in this collection of essays, but also poetry in general, both as a reader and as a practitioner. In prose that is unconventional and often very funny, he comments as well on the state of the humanities, teaching, translation, the history of language media and the connections between poetry and visual art."

(Globe and Mail)

"Charles Bernstein's new book has arrived from Chicago University Press, at my London address, enveloped in several stiff boxes like some kind of rare document. This book, Attack of the Difficult Poems, is a must-have, must-read, for every practicing poet in Britain and Ireland. They should buy their copies online today. This may involve wasting money. But it will be worth it." (Todd Swift Malarkey Pills)

About the Author

Charles Bernstein is the Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as coeditor of both the Electronic Poetry Center and PennSound. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of Guggenheim and NEA grants. Among his many publications are three books also published by the University of Chicago Press: Girly Man, With Strings, and My Way: Speeches and Poems.

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. O. Aptowicz on April 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Charles Bernstein is a poet & poetry professor who may be best known by the younger generation of writers as the poet who hates National Poetry Month. His oft-blogged about essay, "Against National Poetry Month As Such" (which is included in "Attack of the Difficult Poems") makes the bold claim that National Poetry Month "is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art at its most bland and its most morally 'positive' " and then smartly up-ends the NYTimes being listed as one of National Poetry Month's sponsors, noting that "if the Times would take seriously the task of reviewing poetry books and readings, it would be doing a far greater service to poetry..."

And it's that sort of blunt assignments of situations, a cool & clear dressing down of what Bernstein believes must be said, that makes "Attack of the Difficult Poems" such a great read. Bernstein treats the reader as a contemporary. He doesn't soften any blows that he think are just, but he doesn't cruelly declaim either. His essays bubble with humor and sly asides, even when he is presenting complex ideas or challenging (literally!) opinions. And it must be noted that even if you don't agree with all of what Bernstein writes (I, for the record, don't), his (internal) logic is nonetheless sound and his essays provoke meaningful thought and conversation.
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14 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on August 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you can't be bothered to plough through this (and I can't say I blame you) there's an alt take on uk amazon

A poem can be 'difficult' in one of two ways, because it is intellectually challenging or because it is intellectually empty. As practitioner himself Bernstein is scarcely an impartial arbiter; while I'm sure his unconventional teaching is to be applauded (but how unconventional actually is it, and how much to do with poetry, I wonder?) as critic he comes over as tutor to the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, if he is not, in fact, the latter

'No poem is ever really difficulty-free' - really? He means no critic will fail to find difficulty where he looks for it - that's his job after all; readers, however, generally prefer poems where his presence is not required. For those of us who also enjoy a critical tussle, this book is welcome, indeed necessary, if problematic - and not quite in the way the author intended. It's all very well being playful, Mr Bernstein (as critic, I mean), but there really is no excuse for unintelligibility. Such poetry is often labeled experimental, and it's in the nature of experiments that most are failures and their results go unpublished. If a poem is difficult (ie does not elicit a response) it is generally bad, and it doesn't hurt to say so occasionally; the reason why there are vastly more writers than readers at the more recherché end is that it is more interesting churning out this stuff

I/2 ah, good old canon-bashing - I'm all for it; but the canon's that way for a reason (concensus, dear boy, since you ask) and like presidents you gotta have one - without a canon to attack what would folks like Charles Bernstein do?
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More About the Author

Charles Bernstein is the author of 40 books, ranging from large-scale collections of poetry and essays to pamphlets, libretti, translations, and collaborations. In March, 2010, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux will publish All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems.. Recent full-lengtht works of poetry include Girly Man (University of Chicago Press, 2006), With Strings (University of Chicago Press, 2001), and Republics of Reality: 1975-1995 (Sun & Moon Press, 2000). He has published two books of essays and one essay/poem collection: My Way: Speeches and Poems (University of Chicago Press, 1999); A Poetics (Harvard University Press, 1992); Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 (Sun & Moon Press, 1986, 1994; reprinted by Northwestern University Press, 2001). Shadowtime (Green Integer, 2005) is the libretto he wrote for Brian Ferneyhough's opera and Blind Witness (Factory School, 2008) collects the libretti he wrote for Ben Yarmolinsky.

Bernstein is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania.

He is the co-founder and co-editor, with Al Filreis, of PENNsound (writing.upenn.edu/pennsund); and editor, and co-founder, with Loss Pequenno Glazier, of The Electronic Poetry Center (epc.buffalo.edu). He is coeditor, with Hank Lazer, of Modern and Contemporary Poetics, a book series from the University of Alabama Press (1998 - ). He has been host and co-producer of LINEbreak and Close Listening, two radio poetry series.

With Bruce Andrews, he edited L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which was anthologized as The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (Southern Illinois University Press, 1984). Bernstein is editor of American Poetry after 1975 (a special issue of boundary 2, 2009), Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems (Library of Amecrica, 2006), Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (Oxford University Press, 1998);The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy (Roof Books, 1990); 99 Poets/1999: An International Poetics Symposium, a special issue of boundary 2; and Live at the Ear (Elemenope Productions, 1994), an audio poetry anthology. He is the co-author of A Conversation with David Antin (Granary Books, 2002). Bernstein has edited two collections of poetry: "Language Sampler" in Paris Review, No. 86 (1982) and 43 Poets (1984) in Boundary 2 (1986).

From 1990 to 2003, he was David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Director of the Poetics Program, which he co-founded, with Robert Creeely. In 2002, he was appointed SUNY Distinguished Professor (the university's highest rank). Bernstein has been writer-in-residence or visiting faculty at Columbia University, Princeton University, Brown University, Temple University, Bard College, the New School for Social Research, Queens College, and the University of California at San Diego and is an associate faculty member of the Transdisciplinary PhD Program on "Languages, Identities, and Globalization," Faculty of Arts & Sciences, University of Coimbra (Portugal).

Bernstein serves on the board of the Richard Foreman's Ontological Hysteric Theater, and is an editor of the Sao Paulo journal Sibila. He is on the advisory boards for Ubuweb, boundary 2, Chain, Ugly Duckling Presse, Futurepoem, Arizona Quarterly Review, and Foreign Literature Studies (Wuhan, China)

Anthology appearances include The Norton Anthology of Poetry; The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry; The Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature; The Oxford Book of American Poetry; The Norton Introduction to Literature; The Norton Introduction to Poetry; Poems for the Millennium; From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990; Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology; The Longman Anthology of Poetry: The Best American Poetry 1992, 2002, 2004, and 2008 ; Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present; Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry: An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Form; The Body Electric: The Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review, 1972-1999; Language Poetries; In the American Tree; Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970.

Bernstein has written five librettos: Blind Witness News, The Subject: A Psychiatric Opera and The Lenny Paschen Show, with composer Ben Yarmolinsky, and Cafe Buffe, by Dean Drummond. Shadowtime, on the work of Walter Benjamin, was written for composer Brian Ferneyhough and premiered in May 2004 at the Munich Biennale; in 2004 it played at the Fesitival d'Automne in Paris and in 2005 at the Lincoln Center Festival. A CD was issued from NMC in 2006..

He has collaborated with Richard Tuttle on a poem/sculpture and an essay/poem on Tuttle's work, and collaborated with Susan Bee on several artists books. In 2002, he curated Poetry Plastique, with Jay Sanders, at the Marianne Boesky gallery and coedited the catalog.

Since the mid-1970s, Bernstein's poems and essays have been published in over 500 magazines and periodicals. His poetry and essays have appeared in translation, as well, in over one hundred anthologies and periodicals in Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Russia, China, Korea, and Japan. Collections of his work have been translated into Spanish (poems from Xul Press, Buenos Aires and essays from Aldus, Mexico, forthcoming), Sweeden (OEI, 2008), Portuguese (Sao Paolo: Martins, 2008); Finnish (2006), and Chinese (forthcoming)..

Over 400 essays and reviews on his work have been published in TLS, PN Review, Critical Inquiry, The Nation, The American Book Review, The American Poetry Review, The Michigan Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, The Missouri Review, American Poetry, Jacket, MLN, Poetics Today, Harvard Book Review, and numerous other journals and books.

He has given about 500 readings and lectures/talks since 1975, throughout the world, including France, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, The Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Serbia, Spain, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, England, Sweden, Argentina, New Zealand, and the U.S.

In 2006, Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Prizes include: The 1999 Roy Harvey Pearce / Archive for New Poetry Prize of the University of California, San Diego (established in 1995, the Pearce Prize is awarded biennially to an American poet-scholar in recognition of his or her distinguished lifetime contributions to poetry and literary scholarship); and, at Penn, the Dean's Award for Innovation in Teaching in 2005. Fellowships include: New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1995 and 1990, University of Auckland Foundation Fellowship (1986), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1985), the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship (1980), and the William Lyon McKenzie King Fellowship (at Simon Fraser University) (1973).

From the early 70s to the late 80s, he worked as a writer/editor on healthcare and medical topics, with a break to serve as Associate Director of the CETA Artists Project (the largest postwar American public employment program for artists).

Charles Bernstein was born April 4, 1950 in New York City. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1972. He is married to the painter Susan Bee and has two children Felix and Emma (1985-2008)..

For overview, see Logan Esdale, "Charles Bernstein" entry in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry (2005)

For more information go to http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bernstein.

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