All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems

Charles Bernstein, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $26 (300p) ISBN 978-0-374-10344-6

This gathering of 30 years worth of work by the prominent L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet and essayist offers a rigorous critique of the art of poetry itself, which means, among other things, a thorough investigation of language and the mind. Varied voices and genres are at play, from a colloquial letter of complaint to the manager of a Manhattan subway station to a fragmentary meditation on the forces that underlie the formation of knowledge. Bernstein's attention to the uncertainty surrounding the self as it purports to exist in poetry—“its virtual (or ventriloquized)/ anonymity—opens fresh pathways toward thinking through Rimbaud's dictum that “I is another.” In addition to philosophical depth—which somehow even lurks beneath statements like “There is nothing/ in this poem/ that is in any/ way difficult/ to understand”—a razor-sharp wit ties the book together: “You can't/ watch ice sports with the lights on!” These exhilarating, challenging poems raise countless essential questions about the form and function of poetry. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/22/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-374-53265-9
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-907773-30-3
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