Bernstein, Charles, 1950-....

Alternative names
Birth 1950-04-04

Biographical notes:

Late 20th-century American poet acknowledged as a leader of the LANGUAGE movement, Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950 and Educated at Harvard University (1968-1972). He founded, and co-edited with Bruce Andrews, the LANGUAGE Journal; published over fifteen works of his collected poetry. Bernstein teaches literature and poetry at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

From the description of Charles Bernstein papers, 1962-2000. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 44624696


Charles Kegel Bernstein was born on April 4, 1950, in New York City. As a student at the Bronx High School of Science, Bernstein edited and wrote for the school newspaper, SCIENCE SURVEY, and was active in his synogogue's youth group. Before entering Harvard University in 1968, Bernstein met visual artist Susan Bee, whom he would later marry and with whom he occasionally collaborates.

During his years at Harvard University, Bernstein studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein, portions of which were later published. After receiving his A.B. in 1972, Bernstein and Bee moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then the following year to Santa Barbara where he worked part-time as a community health education coordinator. In 1974, the two moved back to New York City.

Over the next ten years, as Bernstein became an established poet, he earned his income by editing and writing for medical and healthcare publications. During this time, Bernstein was very active in the experimental poetry scenes of New York, San Francisco and Toronto, not only as a poet, but also as an editor and publisher. Bernstein and Bee started Asylum's Press, which brought out some of their collaborations as well as the works of other poets who are now well-known. In New York, he met Bruce Andrews, with whom he founded and co-edited the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Journal, the name also given to the loosely connected group of experimental writers with whom Bernstein has been most closely associated. In conjunction with the magazine, Bernstein co-founded Segue Distribution service, which made small press publications more accessible to readers.

In 1990, Bernstein was appointed David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he continues to exert a significant literary influence through his continued teaching, writing and editing; the on-line Poetics discussion list which he founded and initially moderated, and the Electronic Poetry Center for which he serves as the main advisor.

As a writer, Bernstein works in a wide range of styles, showing that there is no "natural" voice or register for poetry or any other sort of writing. Like many associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing, Bernstein foregrounds the materiality of language and extends the experimentalism often associated with the Black Mountain and New York Schools of poetry and other arts. Bernstein's work is also significantly influenced by figures such as Gertrude Stein, Laura (Riding) Jackson and Ezra Pound, as well as his background in philosophy, evident in his early work on Wittgenstein.

From the guide to the Charles Bernstein Papers, 1962-2000, (University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.)


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  • American poetry--20th century


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