[from the back cover of the 1991 Sun & Moon book]

Charles Bernstein is, simply put, one of the most influential and widely read poets of our age. One of the true masters of irony in poetry, Bernstein manages to also infuse each poem with an affirmative vision which verges on the utopian.

Bernstein is a poet of language, in the fullest sense of that word, a poet who "want[s] no paradise, only to be / drenched in downpour of words ..." In Rough Trades, language is taken in every direction possible, from the straght lines of jokes filled with pregnant pauses (George Burns) to the paratactic lines of a Hennie Youngman, and from the lines of Maoist thought to the lines of ladies's dresses which his father pushed — not downstairs in the stree but upstairs in a factory as the head of a dressmaking company. These lines of language, of thinking, intersect, dissect, converge, and emerge again as new ideas and emotions, hit and bounce and point and disappear over the horizon, only to reappear from the periphery.

      [from the backmatter of 1991 Sun & Moon book]


           Born in 1950 in New York City, Charles Bernstein received
      an undergraduate education at Harvard University. After
      graduating, he lived in Vancouver, British Columbia and Santa
      Barbara, where he worked as a technical editor, before returning
      to New York City. In 1977 he married painter Susan Bee, his
      editorial and artistic collaborator.
           His first book publication, Parsing, appeared in 1976.  In 1978
      he began editing, with Bruce Andrews, the influential crticial
      journal, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. The title of this journal
      quickly becamse a descriptive term to characterize a wide range
      of American poets whose work, discussed in the journal, focuses
      on language itself—how language means, how it is structured,
      how it sounds, and how it looks on the page. Not all of these
      poets share the same aesthetic, but the term, “Language”
      poets—for better or worse—stuck and came to be recognized as
      a major force in American poetics from the 1970s to the present.
           The same year, Sun & Moon Press, in its first book
      publication, published Bernstein’s Shade, a work that came to
      characterize his early writing, made of basically short lines that
      each recontextualize and transform the meaning of the previous
      and the next. The poetry that results is a work of jumps, leaps,
      fissures, breaks, and other disjunctive devices that also function
      together to create a meaningful, and often lyrical, whole.
           Two short works, Poetic Justice and Senses of Responsibility,
      appeared in 1979, and Bernstein’s first collection, Controlling
, was published the following year in 1980. This book
      received international critical acclaim and established Bernstein’s       
poetic reputation, which was further solidified with the
      publication of Islets/Irritations in 1983 and with a substantial book
      of essays in 1985, Content’s Dream.
           The Sophist, published in 1987, further extended Bernstein’s
      range, making even more apparent his comic genius and his
      fascination with pairing radically different syntactical patterns of
      language with the same poem and volume.
           Artifice of Absorption (1987) gave further evidence of
      Bernstein’s critical persepicaciousness. His other books include
(1981), The Occurrence of Time (1981, a collaboration with
      Susan Bee), Stigma (1981), Resistance (1983), and the Nude
      Formalism (1989, again in collaboration with Susan Bee).
      Bernstein has also translated and edited several periodical
      anthologies of contemporary poets.
           In 1990 Bernstein was appointed to the David Gray Chair at
       the State University of New York, Buffalo.