At The Renaissance Society in Chicago, IL.
“This gathering of 30 years worth of work by the prominent L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet and essayist offers a rigorous critique of the art of poetry itself, which means, among other things, a thorough investigation of language and the mind. Varied voices and genres are at play, from a colloquial letter of complaint to the manager of a Manhattan subway station to a fragmentary meditation on the forces that underlie the formation of knowledge. Bernstein's attention to the uncertainty surrounding the self as it purports to exist in poetry—“its virtual (or ventriloquized)/ anonymity—opens fresh pathways toward thinking through Rimbaud's dictum that “I is another.” In addition to philosophical depth—which somehow even lurks beneath statements like “There is nothing/ in this poem/ that is in any/ way difficult/ to understand”—a razor-sharp wit ties the book together: “You can't/ watch ice sports with the lights on!” These exhilarating, challenging poems raise countless essential questions about the form and function of poetry.” (starred review) --Publishers Weekly
"Charles Bernstein is not just a theorist of poetry but of language itself. The ideas guiding his creative work might be summarized, albeit reductively, like this: Words are meaningless in themselves, and find significance only when we agree upon a definition. Bernstein’s poetry tends to draw attention to the slipperiness of words, and to reload them with new, and sometimes better, meanings.
"All the Whiskey in Heaven, his first book from a major publisher and required reading for poetry enthusiasts, selects from the dozens of works the author has written over the past 35 years. Don’t look here for intensely felt personal recollections or anything referencing particular biography. Instead, you’ll find verbal collages in many different forms. One of the foundational figures of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement, Bernstein likes to borrow from various sources—political discourse, personal correspondence, mental-health literature and advertising—and see what happens when they bump up against one another. “I am especially interested in the treatment of depression,” one prose poem opens, but begins shifting drastically a few lines down: “Nowadays, being a husband, father, homeowner and Jew keeps me both busy and satisfied.” The poet is often quite funny (see, for instance, “Mao Tse Tung Wore Khakis”).
"Though Bernstein borrows from other sources, his poems display imagination and great formal variety. There are rambling free-verse prose poems, long poems, songs, political tirades and even aphorisms: “War is nature’s way of saying I told you so.” While much of what’s here is unsettling and even difficult to understand, that’s the way it’s meant to be. This is the culture we’ve made, the one we’ve agreed upon—Bernstein is merely reflecting it back at us."—Craig Morgan Teicher, Time Out New York