Wake me when the movie’s over
Let me sleep till then
Wake me when I care no longer
To ever get sober again
learn something from such experiences [presumably Emma’s death];
but I don’t want that knowledge and for me there are no
fruits to these experiences, only ashes. I can’t and don’t want
to “heal”; perhaps, though, go on in the full force of my dys-
abilities, coexisting with a brokenness that cannot be accom-
modated, in the dark. (“Recalculating”)
Or, as he quotes Wilde in “The Truth in Pudding”:
But the world will never weary of watching that troubled soul
in its progress from darkness to darkness.
It is not that Bernstein has abandoned his older ideas; indeed, this poet has always sought out what he describes as a “poetics of bewilderment” (“How Empty Is My Bread Pudding”). And his push toward fragmentation in the form of “disjunction, ellipsis, constellation” (“The Truth In Pudding”) would have been equally at home in his early book of poetics Content’s Dream, where he argued for a language that moves toward denseness and opacity in order to “actually map the fullness of thought and its movement.”
Yet, we also recognize that something stylistically different in occurring in this most recent work. Bernstein has often in the past combined what one might call “poetics” with “poetry,” refusing to distinguish between the two, the one being what the poet creates in writing his “poems,” but the major works of Recalculating take that even further, combining in five larger works—“The Truth in Pudding,” “How Empty Is My Bread Pudding,” “Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, and Implausibly Deniable Links,” “Unready, Unwilling, Unable,” and “Recalculating,” what might be described as a combination of diary-like comments, aphorisms in the manner of Stein and Wilde, poetic quotations, and personal revelations. Strangely, these multi-genre works seem to be the most representative in this volume of Bernstein’s thinking, as he winds his car of the mind through the twisted streets of his thinking, braking, even stopping momentarily to move forward again with gusto. The result not only defines what the poet means by “recalculating,” but represents what he clearly perceives as his winding journey through life, moving on through “disjunction, ellipsis, constellation,” and, perhaps, most importantly, a now flawed memory.
assimilated (and even his unassimilated) past into a new future. This poet has often “recreated” the works of other poets, but in this volume we note that Bernstein is, at times, almost repeating the structure of one of my earlier books, After, rewriting, reinterpreting, and remaking poems by figures as various as Baudelaire, Pessoa, Leevi Lehto, Osip Mandelstam, Sylvia Plath, Frost, Régis Bonvicino, Wallace Stevens, Cole Porter (via Chaucer), Walt Whitman, Paul Celan, Velimir Khlebnikov, Paolo Leminski, Juão Cabral de Melo Neto, Victor Hugo, Guilliaume Apollinaire, William Wordsworth, Nerval, and even me (a work that certainly captures the sense of the poem on which it was based). Some of these are among the strongest works in this volume, particularly the Baudelaire, Hugo, and Apollinaire imitations; but all are interesting in that they reveal a great postmodern poet (Bernstein’s definition of “Postmoderism”: modernism with a deep sense of guilt) exploring international poets of the past and present.