Description | Praise | Images for Poems | Critical Responses
Notes & Extensions | Sound Files | Author Bio
On-line poems from Girly Man

EPC Author Page

cover image by Susan Bee (Fleurs du Mal, 2003, detail)

University of Chicago Press
Sept. 15, 2006
160 pp.
now in paper

Images for Poems
"Jacob's Ladder"

"Slap Me Five, Cleo, Mark's History"

Critical Responses


Boston Review: David Greenberg, “When That Becomes This” partly on "War Stories" (July/August 2011) & response (March 2012)

Brooklyn Rail: Gordon Tapper (March 2007)

Buffalo News: R.D. Pohll 10/13/06

EBR: "Either You're With Us and Against Us: Charles Bernstein's Girly Man, 9-11, and the Brechtian Figure of the Reader (2008)

Experimental  Fiction and Poetry:
Jefferson Hanson (2008)

David Kaufman, "Rattling the Chains of American Poetry : Charles Bernstein’s unique blend of polemic, parody and just plain invention" (12/21/06)

Harvard Review: Kathleen  Rooney (Spring 2007)

Jacket 33: Dan Thomas-Glass (July 2007)

Kansas City Star: Robert Hicks review (12/31/06)

(Norway): Martin Glaz Serup (4/7/2007) (Norweigan)

Allen Mozak on Girly Man For the Birds, Dec. 2009)

The Line Break: Tom Holmes on 12x12

The New Review: Douglas Messerli, "The Possibility of Rectitude" -- on Let's Just Say (2005)

Philadelphia Inquirer: Thomas Devaney (2/18/07)

Poetry Project Newsletter: Chuck Stebelton (April-June, 2007)

Poetry Magazine: Ange Mlinko & David Yezzi (May 2007)

Post IV: Maurice Devitt, "Girly Man: poetry as reality TV" (Irish Center for Poetry Studies, c. 2012

Publishers Weekly (8/28/2006)

The Quarterly Conversation by John Herbert Cunningham (Feb. 2009)

Meredith Quartermain on World on  Fire

Stanza: Ton van 't Hof, (in Dutch)

Susan Schultz on "Some of These Daze" in "'World Trade Center': Wrting after 9/11," the coda to A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005).

Ron Silliman on World on Fire; and also on two poems from Let's Just Say: Silliman on "In Particular" and Silliman on "Thank You for Saying Thank You" (2003-4); Silliman on Girly Man (2006)

Talisman: Corinne Robins (#34 Winter/Spring 2007)

William Watkin's Blog   (March 15, 2007)

Verse: Thomas Fink (Feb. 2007)

Washinton Post: Robert Pinsky's "Poet's Choice" (1/28/07)

Notes & Extensions

"In Particular "

:Marko Niemi's javascript extension/version
:full screen version

"Jacob's Ladder"

: Nam June Paik image

"Reading Red"

: Discussion of poem in a dialog with Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, published in Conjunctions
Richard Tuttle image with text of "Loopy" (poem # 14)

"Some of These Days

: First publications & Granary Books collaboration with Mimi Gross

"Slap Me Five, Cleo, Mark's History

: Image of Bernard Duvivier's "Cleopatra"
: The Millionaire

World on Fire

: Susan Bee cover for original Nomados edition

: sheet music for "World on Fire" (1941 song)

: Discussion of poems on "Cross-Cultural Poetics" (3/15/04):  text of interview, published in Jacket

: Discussion of "In a Restless World Like This Is" on Poem Talk


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DIRECTIONS: For each pair of sentences, circle the letter, a or b, that best expresses your viewpoint.

a. Girly Man’s meanings are largely organized by luck or chance.
b. Charles Bernstein’s intentions determine what these poems mean.

a. Girly Man is indifferent to human needs.
b. Girly Man has some purpose, even if obscure.

a. Poetry like this brings the greatest happiness.
b. Poetry like this is illusory and its pleasures, transient.

a. Overall, Charles Bernstein has been harmful to American culture.
b. Overall, Charles Bernstein has been beneficial to American culture.

(This written endorsement of Girly Man should be removed for inspection and verification.)

—Jerome McGann

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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 poems so specifically addresses the events of its time as Girly Man, which features 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 performs its 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.

When we thought we had Bernstein pegged or that his work had possibly reached its limits, he emerges in Girly Man as a poet at the top of his form, capable still of the greatest modernist & postmodernist swervings, & for whom no form of expression is now entirely foreign. As with other poets of his rank (& that rank is very high), he has the ability to make categories dissolve & for himself, as poet, to become happily unclassifiable. From the comic to the archromantic, the avant-garde to the avant-pop, the formally constructed to the deceptively lawless, the personally political to the impersonally poetical, the poems in Girly Man are an example of what poetry can be in the hands of a supercharged & superrestless poet. Charles Bernstein is now more clearly what he has always been – a major poet for our time – & then some.
— Jerome Rothenberg


Improvisational volatility, wordplay, near rhyme possibilities, frolic arguments, standup skepticism, loopy affirmation, accurate wit, restless ethical inquiry: I can’t think of a better way for a reader to experience Charles Bernstein’s fierce commitment to poetry as a necessary calling than to read this, his latest and perhaps most accessible collection. In this restless world we live in, Bernstein is one of our most radical and resilient voices.
—Susan Howe


Charles Bernstein’s poems in Girly Man are frequently series of pairs, jingles of a ‘public discourse’ that purports to represent us and by which Bernstein misrepresents us, the pairs being apparently contrary to each other and from which we are to choose as if without middle ground: “simultaneous double narrative/the space between’s the other narrative/as if they’re opposite.” In the space between, outside representation but in the ‘presence’ of it, we are provoked to laugh. Bernstein alters our language to open a double range that’s public and mind at once and inseparable, that is “Poetry is patterned thought in search of unpatterned mind.” Girly Man is doing it.
—Leslie Scalapino


Charles Bernstein may be our most inspired formalist. He dares to look at all the things that poetry historically is not in order to fashion what it might become. In his brilliant new collection, Bernstein continues his genuinely unreasonable assault on the gentle reading public. Long live the girly man!
—Peter Gizzi


Girly Man demonstrates why many critics hold Charles Bernstein to be among the most important poets writing in America. This book is infused by Bernstein’s signature poetics—a fusion of form and content, poetic language and argument, entertainment and philosophy, the personal and the social. Above all, Girly Man exhibits Bernstein’s rigorous attention to language and ways of speaking from which many of his recurrent themes emerge. Girly Man’s strength is the strength of Bernstein’s overall poetic project: his ability to critique institutions and life, often making everyday speech strange in order to make its underlying assumptions visible.
— Steve Tomasula


MP3 Sound Files of poems

Cue Art Foundation Launch/Reading (audio and video), Jan. 16 2007

"The Bricklayer's Arms," studio recording in New York (2004) & BPC (2004)
"The Ballad of the Girly Man": excerpt on the Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC (2005); complete poem, recorded in Chicago (2004) ; in Brooklyn (2004); & BPC (first reading, 2004)
"from Canti Antichi" (studio, 2007)
"Castor Oil," with Emma Bee Bernstein, Morrow Studio (2004; also
recorded in Chicago. with Emma (2004)
"Don't Get Me Wrong" (studio, 2007)
"every lake...," Morrow Studio recording (2004) and Oslo (2009)
"If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now," BPC (2004)
Morrow Studio recording (2004), also recorded in Chicago (2004) & in Brooklyn (2004) & BPC (2004)
"Shenandoah" (studio, 2007)
"Secrets of a Clear Hand", BPC (2004)
"Self-Help": recorded in Chicago (2004) & at BPC (2004)
"Slap Me Five, Cleo, Mark's History," recorded at Harvard (2001): image
"Thank You for Saying Thank You," Columbia University, 2001 & Weekend America (Boston, 2002). Video: Ireland, 2005 (poem intercut with interview on Shadowtime)
" War Stories," with Emma Bee Bernstein, Morrow Studio (2004); video of Buffalo reading (2003)
"The Warble of the Ammonia-Bellied Barkeep": Brooklyn (2004) & BPC (2004)
Cross-Cultural Poetics Interview on Girly Man, including reading, April 15. 2007 (32 20:): MP3

Joe Milford Show reading and discussion of Girly Man on BlogTalk.Com: MP3 (1hr10m)


World on Fire and Let's Just Say recorded at the University of Pennsylvania (2003)
"Likeness," "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now," "Secrets of a Clear Hand," " Self-Help," "The Warble of the Amonia-Bellied Barkeep," "The Bricklayer's Arms," "The Ballad of the Girly Man"
:::recorded at Segue/Bowery Poetry Club, 10/2/04
"Self-Help," "In Particular," "Thank You for Saying Thank You," "Castor Oil," "The Bricklayer's Arms," "The Ballad of the Girly Man," and World on Fire
recorded at Mills College (2004)
University of Chicago (2006)

[recordings courtesy PennSound]

Some of the poems in Girly Man have appeared on-line; these initial publications are linked here.

Charles Bernstein author page EPC
Bernstein Web Log
University of Chicago Press

web design: Caudio Amberian


John Reynolds, "Pretty Ugly" (2004)
text from Let's Just Say