This story appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian

New poetry professor delivers reading of work
Award-winning poet gives presentation at Kelly Writers House

By Sameer Khetan
September 26, 2003

He's not your average Poe.

Before a sizable crowd yesterday evening at the Kelly Writers House, world-renowned poet Charles Bernstein delivered a performance of his most recent works. The reading was held in a newly created area in the house's picturesque outdoor garden.

In an introduction, English Professor Kathy Lou Schultz described Bernstein as a man "marked by humor and intelligence," who "never met a pun he didn't like."

Writers House Program Coordinator Thomas Devaney followed, expanding on Bernstein's "commitment to community and collaboration."

After introductions, Bernstein recited a variety of pieces, including "Let's Just Say" and "World on Fire." His work is highly satiric in nature, characterized by unusual iambic beats and radical topics ranging from rare to everyday events.

According to Kelly Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis, his writing falls "somewhere between Groucho Marx and rap."

Filreis' appraisal of Bernstein was shared by fellow audience members.

A lively performer, Bernstein "dances with poetry, and makes each piece a song," College sophomore Jill Ivey said.

Ron Silliman, a Chester County resident who has known Bernstein for 30 years, praised the writer's seemingly random style, saying, "Every line has a reason, even if not immediately apparent."

Audience members had the opportunity to further discuss Bernstein's work during a reception which followed the performance.

Bernstein has spent the last 13 years teaching as a professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo. Recently, however, Bernstein made the move to Philadelphia, joining the English Department at Penn.

Since he began teaching, one of his passions has been "enthralling students in the process of creating, listening to, and reading contemporary poetry," he said.

The Penn writing community has been highly anticipating his arrival as well-- his addition provides the community with "one of the strongest poetry programs in the world," according to English Department Chairman David Wallace.

During his career, Bernstein has written over 20 books of poetry and has appeared in over 350 literary magazines in North America. His publications have been translated in over 20 countries and have earned him such prestigious awards as the 1985 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and the 1999 Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize.