After 9/11, postmodernism and irony were declared dead. Charles Bernstein here proves them alive and well in poems elegiac, defiant, and resilient to the point of approaching song. Heir to the democratic and poetic sensibilities of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, Bernstein has always crafted verse that responds to its historical moment, but no previous collection of his pAfter 9/11, postmodernism and irony were declared dead. Charles Bernstein here proves them alive and well in poems elegiac, defiant, and resilient to the point of approaching song. Heir to the democratic and poetic sensibilities of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, Bernstein has always crafted verse that responds to its historical moment, but no previous collection of his poems so specifically addresses the events of its time as Girly Man, whichfeatures works written on the evening of September 11, 2001, and in response to the war in Iraq. Here, Bernstein speaks out, combining self-deprecating humor with incisive philosophical and political thinking. Composed of works of very different forms and moods—etchings from moments of acute crisis, comic excursions, formal excavations, confrontations with the cultural illogics of contemporary political consciousness—the poems work as an ensemble, each part contributing something necessary to an unrealizable and unrepresentable whole. Indeed, representation—and related claims to truth and moral certainty—is an active concern throughout the book. The poems of Girly Man may be oblique, satiric, or elusive, but their sense is emphatic. Indeed, Bernstein’s poetry performsits ideas so that they can be experienced as well as understood. A passionate defense of contingency, resistance, and multiplicity, Girly Man is a provocative and aesthetically challenging collection of radical verse from one of America’s most controversial poets. ...
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Girly Man Reviews
Girly Man is the kind of poetry the world still needs. In this anthology of collected works, Bernstein captures the conundrum of masculinity in the age of terror, the quandary of avant-garde literature without a direction, and the seemingly unnecessary value of art and poetry. In one poignant section, he writes prose-poems about living in Manhattan in September 2001 with grace, immediacy, and honesty that transports you to the most influential week of this century. He makes the case for taking pleasure in life's beauty, in having honor in appreciating that beauty, and persevering even when it seems like there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. It's an illuminating, inspirational, disciplined attempt to give some music and meaning to times that seem so utterly meaningless. Not to be missed for anyone with an interest in contemporary American poetry.
His best in a long time. While Bernstein's most public statements of poetics and politics haven't changed much since about 1980, his writing has again managed to exceed itself here, actualizing the dizzying variety only suggested in his criticism. The direct and the opaque, the moving and the hilarious, all coexist here in an urgent unsettledness. It may also be the first book I've read of his that contains explicitly political poetry. In any case, Bernstein's refusal to settle on a style was always one of my favorite things about him, and I'd been disappointed by his previous two collections, feeling like they read as rote reiterations of some favorite sour/comic tropes. Here he's back in full swing. Reading Girly Man reminded me of why I love Charles Bernstein.
I have a lot to say about this collection, but for now I'll just copy two of my favorite lines from the poem "Sign Under Test": "If language could talk we would refuse to understand it. / Hue is a property of optics not objects." I'll also drop a few of the book's key topics: modern/postmodernism, post-9/11 America, the role of art in society, the value of perspective, irony and sincerity, stylistic repetition, and authorship and interpretation. A real good read.
Charles Bernstein is a badass. Girly Man is the funniest poetry I've read in a while, and when I finished the collection I found myself asking and answering some interesting questions:1. What is the point of poetry? Is it really just pretentious crap?2. What exactly is a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet? 3. What is Bernstein trying to say about the media?When I woke up the next morning after reading this, I was like, "damn. I feel hungover. I guess I had too much to think last night." BAM.
Bernstein is in top form. The influence of revolutionary poetics is apparent now across the internet, film, television and literature. Bernstein is without a doubt a fundamental contributor to these evolutions, and this book should not be missed.
actually downloaded a pdf version from gigapedia, seems to have got a lot of the poems in all the whiskey in heaven, the new selected from FSG. love how sincere and childlike it is. boyish man.