Charles Bernstein

Roof Books
new printing: 2004
ISBN: 0-937804-03-7
Price $11.95

Amazon Kindle edition (2014): $4

"It’s strange to think of Charles Bernstein’s insurrectionary Controlling Interests as a “classic,” but there (here) it is. Written in & on that paradigmatic moment when “guacamole has replaced turkey as / the national dish of most favor” – 1980, three years after the oil crisis and the slippage of fordism toward the modular elusiveness of post-fordist globalization – these texts register and report on the (local & partial) displacement of the arduous demands of production by the diffuse injunction to take up a “lifestyle” and consume. But they’re characterized by a sometimes savage exuberance that hardly fits the Jamesonian mantra of the pomo lamb lying down complacently with its late-capitalist lion. That’s evident not only in the sometimes overt accents of critique, but also in the pervasive madcap pleasures of bizarre one-upsmanship: no mode of production could be more modular and mobile than this carnival of madly compressed “turnover time.” Indeed things move fast enough that, if this were a carousel (why not?), a lot of the fixtures & bric-a-brac of their historical moment would go zooming off toward some asymptotic limit we might call a horizon. What we can dimly discern there is surprising, and makes this hyperbolically comic text also intensely moving: say Benjamin’s angel of history, struggling to recover blown shards of the wreckage of history (the sacred) before it’s too late; or some strange avatar of Thoreau (courtesy of Stanley Cavell) dreaming not that the language might be made whole – and make us whole – but that it already is (we are) if we can hear it. Controlling Interests points us toward the communal space articulated in those almost audible words. But it won’t let us forget that all of it – junk and junket and critical juggernaut, and the words that make and remake them – is “us” not “them.” So that: comedy, and empathy, and hope: arm in arm, neck & neck – we’re off! --Tenney Nathanson, University of Arizona

"In the poems of CONTROLLING INTERESTS Bernstein continually reveals his desire for the concomitance of the individual and the world, of all language and experience . This book is one of the most original and imaginative in American lyric verse" --Douglas Messerli. (Go to Messerli's entire 1982 review.)

"Bernstein presents the reader with a world in which the articulation of an individual language is all but prevented by the official discourses that bombard the consciousness from all sides . He [is] on to something important"--Marjorie Perloff

"It is writing of absolute necessity, demanding not to be appreciated, but understood"--Ron Silliman.

Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He has published 27 collections of poetry including With Strings (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Republics of Reality: Poems 1975-1984 (Sun & Moon Press, 2000) and The Sophist (reprinted by Salt Books, 2004). His essays are included in My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago, 1999) and Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 (reprinted by Northwestern University Press, 2001). Bernstein is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. His home page is at the Electronic Poetry Center (