Friday, January 30, 2009

Bernstein on poetry

I've sometimes wondered whether poetry's closest relative is stand-up comedy. Here, in sixty seconds, Charles Bernstein seems to agree (hat tip to Al Filreis):


Anonymous said...

Well, certainly Bernstein's poetry's closest relative is stand-up. But then Bernstein doesn't pretend he's reciting a poem: it's a "lecture." Is he satirizing critics or poets? Is he satirizing the audience for sitting quietly through his shtick? Doesn't matter. Bernstein has nothing to say and has developed both an anti-academic persona (sustained in the real world by tenure, of course) and a gaggle of post-something theories that give him permission to say it. It's the kind of thing my favorite avant-garde poet Steven Wright does, only he's actually funny.

Andrew Shields said...

As is so often the case with attempts to define poetry that try to pretend poetry is not about lines, Bernstein ends up with an idea of poetry that applies to lots of other things as well. Stand-up, of course (and Wright is a master there, but also evidence that it is timing AND delivery that count), but also prose fiction, which so often depends on the timing with which something introduced early in the book is reintroduced later: it must be reintroduced late enough that the reader has forgotten about its first appearance.

The king of timing in comic writing is Dave Barry. His columns are masterpieces of timing. When I heard he was writing novels, I wondered if he'd be able to adapt to the length of the novel—and he was able to!