From Publishers Weekly May 1994
Bernstein, one of the founders of the Language Poetry movement and now a chaired professor at SUNY Buffalo, continues in this, his 20th book, to explore and delight in the way sounds and signs conspire to confuse and instruct. In these poems, phones ring and bells toll; the random noises of life lived in the " Dark City" of experience beckon the ear of the poet. "Blame it on resembling," begins "Sunsickness," one of Bernstein's most reflective pieces, "Worlds / hourly changing / sparring with cause to an / unknowable end." The Bernstein world is one of epistemological doubt in the guise of brash conviction. The bizarre but enjoyable "Virtual Reality" intermixes letters from product manufacturers with musings about personal hygiene and a flux of computer specs to form a text that is chilling in its presumptions about the human heart, and not that far off the mark. Of note in this book, which is a collection of work from the last several years, is a warmth of tone not always evident in the poet's earlier writing--a sense that children have walked into the language arena and found it a playpen: "For when the fire chief / told Pickles that he could stay / the cat knew he had finally / found a home." However dark . . . .
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If James Joyce were alive and writing L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry today, he would be Charles Bernstein. In this wild pastiche of thought, image, and the grit of the ordinary, Bernstein presents a Los Angeles as fully realized as Joyce's Dublin. Found poems are incorporated wholesale into the flow of Bernstein's own language, so that we hear the cacophony of modern life as though from a radio whose tuning dial has gone manic. Filmic rather than strictly literary, Bernstein's work is to linear poetry as MTV is to PBS. Pat Monaghan