Saturday, May 01, 2010

Interview with Charles Bernstein part II (@ Harriet)


Recently I’ve started to see a number of my poems, early and later, as “bachelor machines” after Duchamp and Kafka’s “Penal Colony” – disciplinary structures (to get back to a point you made earlier): self-imploding, non-procreative systems. Or maybe I’d be better to say anti-bachelor machines. Recantorium, which is not in the book but recently appeared in Critical Inquiry and was excerpted in Harper’s, is the most extravagant of these. But it goes back a ways. I would say that “Asylum” (the first poem in the selected) is also an anti-bachelor machine. And at the same time – it’s apparent in Girly Man – I became interested in what I call radical legibility — a mode of explicit reiteration that makes it almost impossible to get lost, to drift; each line is like a rivet, so perhaps this is anticipated in “Sentences” in Parsing. Radical legibility doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll understand the poem, but you can’t not follow. “A Particular Thing” in Girly Man (included in the selected) is a good example (“A black man waiting at a bus stop / A white woman sitting on a stool / A Filipino eating a potato / A Mexican boy putting on shoes . . .”).

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