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Flip to Flop Upside Down Topsy-Turvy

Upside Down World:

Charles Bernstein presents himself upside down with his Topsy-Turvy, to represent our upside-down world where we are bound to live, and, to flip-flop the reader, curious about his upside down posture, who was originally not! Let’s just flip to flop the upside down world to enter into the Bernstein’s pataquerical world with Wittgenstein’s sense of affirmation─ “double negative is an affirmative” to echo the Upanishadic mantra─ negation of negation─ where “the negation-sign occasioned our doing something” (Wittgenstein 1958: 147). So start your mental activity: flip to flop the upside down world. That “tactical reversal” may “create a space of greater freedom” because “negatives have a queer way of becoming positives” (Bernstein 2016: 316). So start your action: flip to flop the upside down world in “Zeno’s way”:

Three steps
ahead, knocked
to floor;
get up,
pushed two
steps behind,
knocked down
again; get

  1. (Bernstein 2021: 6)

The action of pushing creates resistance, one of the favorite words of Bernstein. So resist: allow none to map your world. To be, or not to be upside down, that is the question. I’m just pouring (or poring? I always misspell the words to miss the missing link. The link is still missing and it supposed to be, otherwise there would be no creation.) the word “upside down” in a black box and shaking them well to throw the dice not to abolish but to take a chance for the most irregular German action (you call it verb, I call it action, because verb may reduce to verbal only but I believe in action) seinto be─ to arrive upside down = UWP sein odd. That is to mean Universal Windows Platform to be odd. Windows platform to mean our spectacle through which we look through. No doubt, the spectacle is unique for every individual but the platform is universal where opacity of individual matters. If individualism does not flourish, how universality will take its own resolution? If the bound is not complete within itself, how can boundless play its own tune?─ to echo Tagore in Geetanjali [Bengali: song offerings]: boundless thou within bound/ you play your own tunes.

To keep the spectacle impeccable, the “Whipmaster Valorizer™” frequently sanitizes it with alcohol for his “derealization process” (Bernstein 1987: 146) of the present Covidic situation of the world because Bernstein’s poetics is “situational rather than fixed and rule-bound” (2016: 3). That is why Bernstein’s “Twelve-Year Universal Horoscope” says “Preferred alcohol” (2021: 150) to “Be Drunken”: “But on what? On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, in your fashion” (2013: 181). Yes, that is the question. If you are drunk on poetry, it may give you “imperceivable solutions to the opaque problems” by “swerve-inducing science” [Bernstein 2016: 171] of Jarryan ’pataphysics. It’s the Bernsteinian “Anti-Metaphysical” process to look into an alternative imaginary world, to open up an inaccessible hitherto unknown region of mind because “Truth enmeshed in layers of thrall/ (Fantasies of imagination and nothing more)” (Bernstein 2021: 118).

To be or not to be, that is not the question at all because the word sein is already bend before odd. Bernstein and odd are two interchangeable words with their same attributes─ where Bern to be bear─ Bern Bear─ the coat of arms of an “Amberian school for sophistry” (Bernstein 2021: 122) where bernstein [German: amber] is a touchstone of poetry, stone-like bold, precious than gold. When language is at threshold of its sense and sound, Amberian attributes set on fire to unfold the flame of poetics with odd. This is to disillusion the “delusional Shakespeare” (64), not to “lose the name of action” only by suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” but “to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”[1] Since Bernstein is the name of the literary terrorist of the American poetic world, there is no doubt about the arms because it creates the possibility of resistance like the life of armed struggle against slavery by “Shields Green” where:

The life lives after the life
As a seed is a void in the world-as-is
Opening paths to worlds-could-be. (Bernstein 2021: 94)

Bernstein quoted “The seraph / Is satyr in Saturn, according to his thoughts” (2021: 151) from Notes toward a Supreme Fiction, by Wallace Stevens, that says “It Must Change”[2]─ change is the essence of reality. And for change, explosion must be created by the arm, not to harm physically but psychologically with the paroxysms of “literary in(ter)ventions” (Bernstein 2016: 295) in the inner realm of thoughts. The explosion of thoughts is sparked by the poet’s own experiences against all turbulences and gloomy despairs of this upside down world to raise its voice through a string of songs, tinged with intense impulse of pain, against the grain. Already those arms are in action from 2010 by Bernstein’s ballad, called “Pataquerical Imagination: A Fantasy in 140 fits”[3]. After eleven years, it’s still glowing with Amberian philosophical fragments in the Topsy-Turvy world with the name “Amberianum” for which the satirist Bernstein gives a hilarious notes:

The Amberianum was reconstructed from shreds and shards at the Sid Caesar Center for Dysraphic Studies. Missing words and the seaming of disconnected parts likely mar the work. The Latin manuscript was discovered on October 4, 1895, buried under a former Minsk dry goods store. The story of the miraculous finding of the Amberianum has been told in the award-winning book The Oy!: How the World Became Pataquerical. (2021: 122)


You may search for the above award-winning book in the internet but this is a patalegitimate address for you. Also I would like to inform you that my shuffle dice game is originally (is there any?─ “original is the remediated trace of the unknowable.” (Bernstein 2016: 31) introduced by “Texton”, an “alchemistry company”, better known for its “Whipmaster Valorizer™”, introduced in 2004 for the revolution in the “psychopoetics industry” (Bernstein 1987: 130), with the technology of Texton (pataquerical pair: Text on) to keep the text on in its action on “the materiality of language” against commodification of poetry. This is to mean that poetry is “No ideas only surfaces, no surfaces only words, no words only textures, no textures only contingent connections” because “the words reference themselves, mark their place in the poem, saying no more nor less than their bare enunciation” (Bernstein 2016: 122, 300).

Like the Valorizer, my shuffle dice game “uses a unique Twofold action”. First, effaces the preconceived prescription of grammar by shuffling the letters in a black box; then, it throws the dice to affix new possibilities with its textuality “to maximize the ping and pong of word against word, phrase against phrase, to intensify the visceral verbal sensation, to find sense, indeed make sense, with what is at hand”( Bernstein 2016: 217).

Covidic World:

If I die—if I die—
In the—German war—
I—want you to send my body—
Send it—to my mother, Lord.                       (Bernstein 2021: v)

This is the part of the epigraph of Topsy-Turvy, transcripted by Bernstein from 1930 vocal recording by Geeshie Wiley. “The Last Kind Words” may be referring to “the German war” of the last century but today “War is here. / War is this. / War is now. / War is us” (Bernstein 2006: 154) as the visionary Girly Man imagined fifteen years ago. It’s a never ending “War Stories” in the poetic world where “War is the answer”. If “train don’t come”, let me walk alone to “cross the deep blue sea” to reach the world of poetic “Covidity”:

The covid’ll get me
Get me bad
My lungs are weak
And I am much misunderstood. (Bernstein 2021: 144)

‘Understand’ is a queer word, not to “stand under” but “to be inside”─ Bernstein’s reaction during my first interaction with him for the Bridgeable Lines Anthology project[4] in 2018. Today, when we are standing under the geopolitical war of poetic Covidity across the globe and trying to be inside, the word “misunderstood” still keeps firm grip on the innovation of poetic language, grasping for fresh air in the present state of breathlessness of language under the pressure of high-minded moral and didactic principles of the official verse culture[5], coined by Bernstein. This, indeed, echoes the present politics of the Covidic world, walled themselves by the “goddamn 15-foot walls” (Bernstein 2021: 144) of imagination that can’t even imagine that they can’t provide enough fire to burn the trail of deaths even when they have the virtual ID of the whole population. I think they thought it is virtual only, not real at all!

The dominant politics of language forces us to be self-quarantined under the Martial law of lockdown because these “all-too-human” (Bernstein 2016: 305) actors fail to provide us oxygen for the slow process of symbiosis but fuel to parasitism to damage our lungs by “word virus” (in Burroughs’ sense) and stigmatize as obsolete/abandoned/unofficial. Bernstein wants to be inside the poetic Covidity to oxygenize our weak lungs, infected by the virus of language, to explore the possibilities in language to respond to the bent, mute, marginalized, silenced. Mutant attributes of Bernsteinian poetics, being in the present, finds the future variant of language to address Covid directly as “The covid gonna get me/ If not now any day” (2021: 145). Like the novel strain of coronavirus whose many region of epidemiology is still unknown, beyond the human understanding, language always continues to evolve. Unknowns are new, new words, new forms, to possess multiple possibilities of new patterns. Bernstein’s paroxysms of pataquerical imagination are antiparasitic to open up a new trail in an unknown terrain, to imagine a growing imaginary through language. Unknown regions always drives the wheels of dynamicity to echo Bernstein:

The dynamic of my work is to try to push beyond the little I’ve been able to understand at any given point. If I understand how to do something, then that ceases to be as interesting—I’m looking for work that’s beyond my understanding (2016: 237).

Every era possesses a dream to go beyond, not in a sense of anti but in a positive tendency, to go beyond the upper limits of the known to search for the unknown because change is the key to progress. The visionary poet foresees the future of language from the counterfactual reflections of the past with “temporal nowledge rather than atemporal knowledge” (Bernstein 2016: 300) to witness the time with the painful real feelings of the moments, the “unforgettable/ now” what was “unimaginable/ hours ago” (Bernstein 2021: 120). It’s the history of language, always put on a moving stage, “Even as now is not now and then was not then, still time moves forward”(115).

This is the way the world moves forward, the way the dimension of time and language moves beyond, the way how science moves from classical to modern physics, from string to superstring to M-theory towards TOE, to get a model of the universe by continuously increasing the dimension of space. However, there is no theory of everything in poetry to echo Bernstein’s poem “A Unified Theory of Poetry”─ “I don’t think so” (2021: 75). So the astrologic voice of the horoscope advices to “Seek cantilever” (151) so that you can support yourself strongly at your root with your chosen lodestar and then egress in open-ended mode to sing Bernstein’s favorite song─ “rejection of closure”─ to turn away from a “preconceived beginning, middle, and end” (2016: 259).

Language moves with a Rigvedic movement, in the sense of the verb root rik (similar to English ṛ́c)─ not only repetition but renew by collecting something new for the progress of its existence. That is to say, the achieved knowledge for the progress of the Self starts anew/afresh itself through time to fuel the progress of humanity. This, indeed, echoes Bernstein: “Orient Eastward for repose, Westward for reflection” (2021: 152) to address the intellectual imagination. Intellect is to refer the Western rational philosophy of quantumism and imagination is to refer the Eastern intuitive philosophy of attainment of bodhi (Sanskrit: true wisdom), the highest state of mental alertness as in Hinduism, the awakening of an inner sense through Satori (Japanese: sudden enlightenment), an enlightenment by acquiring a new point of view as in Zen Buddhism. It’s not in the sense of uniformity but of inner harmony with Bernsteinian hismony[6] that hisses from his inner inn to profess dysraphism as The Sophist. Bernstein strings the songs together with his ““dysprosody”—the prosody of distressed sounds” (2016: 213) from his passion for syncopation to beat the wrap. It’s to go beyond the container of order because “without disorder there can be no harmony” as the Girly Man (Bernstein 2006: 11) says and without harmony between knowledge and imagination there can be no pataquericalism, coined by Bernstein.

Our conventional beliefs on poetics are still some kind of “shibboleths” of clarity, coherence and expression as Bernstein said in the interview[7] with me. Bernstein proposes pluriversity against the rationalized order of clarity; process-driven, plotless, transformative narrative, against coherence, not to make logical connections but a kind of dynamic transformation, “a contingent consecutiveness that registers transition but not discontinuity….Implausible connections, but not arbitrary ones: a series of contingent possibilities. Not fitting, but fits” (2016: 148, 55) that concatenates along musical lines, as the poem “Covidity”, with a rap tune, not rhapsodic to seam together but to misseam to be dysraphic. And for expression he explores different possibilities of expression by “radical decentralization of expression” (2021: 77), to go against expression to disrupt the monopoly on meaning of emotion by conventional poetic culture. It’s a revolution in democracy to “Look for the Address”:

The kind of democracy I’m talking about is not the majority dictating to and restricting the licenses of the minority, but rather a democracy in which the rights of minorities and the particular individuation of their perspectives are not only protected but fostered. (Bernstein 2021: 77)

We can’t escape from the “Covidity”:

The covid ’round the corner
’ll thrash me till I blue
But that’s not my worry
Terrified for you        (Bernstein 2021: 145)

Freedom from suffering is attainable not by fleeing but by transforming its value into the realm of truth, the truth of immeasurable love because “The shortest distance/ between two points/ is love” (Bernstein 2001: 35). That is “The Human Abstract”, reconfigured by Bernstein, being contaminated by Blake. But this shortest distance is endangered now by the misphrased saga of the social distancing by the political leaders in the worldwide pandemic era. Bernstein fears for the distance─ “if I’m distant from you/ I’m sunk before I swum”, because, “Our lungs are weak” (2021: 145)─ weak in the sense of delicate. In addition, “Everything breaks at its weakest point including love” because “Fragility is the root of love” (122)─ fragile in the sense of soft, rather than hard or rigid. The love is the shortest distance between you and me, the shortest distance between a poet and a reader.

Bernstein seeks intimacy because the social distance is a “pain in the soul” (Bernstein 2021: 144). Since the air is now contagious with virus, the parasitic organism, called word, the oddness of Bernsteinian poetics, wants to enforce his own Marsial law in Spicerian sense in the “psychopoetic” society against the Martial law of lockdown, enforced by authority. Air is an old synonym of music; air is the medium for sound, the origin of words; air is the medium for contagious Covid too. Bernstein uses this air with a touch of his magical power of consciousness to create a rhythm in the counter-current to push the boundaries of our finite vision. It’s to quest for the freedom through infinite possibilities to make the reality palpable with the logics of music that plays like a melody of the ballad, called  “Covidity”, against the malady of Covid in our upside down world. Bernstein identified the parasitic organism that invades into our brain but wants to blast the misphrased social distance of covidic era to phrase it as physical distance with mental intimacy, that is to say, his process blasts the distance/difference between signifier and signified to get the freedom of the Spicerian low ghost from the logos of language. He fires the aesthetic flame of the reader’s soul, stained with pain, to burn the barrier to ashes to tingle the resistance with a jingle to jump anywhere, out of the world.

Pataeconomic World:

Bernstein: “The Darkness He Called Night”:
Virtue’s sword
is truth, in
love with
itself, at odds
with others.
Celebrating standards it
fashions, virtue
jams miscreants, shams
malcontents, shaming
those abjure improvement. (2021: 127)

“Virtue’s sword is truth”, but what the virtue is? Virtue [Latin: virtus] is derived from Latin root─ vir [a man]. Not the word virtue but this Latin root vir is similar to Sanskrit vira [hero] with verb root─ vir─ to mean the action that carries active energy, power or strength. A man is called hero when he uses his physical or mental power/energy for others with his virtuous action. In addition, any action is called virtuous when it is accepted/approved by a particular society, in a particular period.

Now the equivalent Sanskrit word for virtue is punya with a verb root─ pu─ to mean the act of giving/offering something but at the same time the act has to undergo sanctification/purification. The concept of the words punya [Sanskrit: virtue] and paap [Sanskrit: vice, sin] were originated in Vedic era for the exchange practice of pawnya [Sanskrit: goods, commodity], which includes mental exchange of knowledge too, with the verb root─ pawn [Sanskrit: promise/agreement for exchange, nearest to English pawn].

But it was not easy to start this exchange practice in the socialistic Vedic society that resists individualism and rejects exchange. Vedic society stigmatized the exchange practice as unrighteous and hence the people, involved in exchange, used to feel a mental sufferings─ that is the sense of sin, the exchanger used to feel. However, to continue a society, it became necessary to fill the need of one with the excess of others. When the produced thing by a man is directly or indirectly feeds the producer, the thing is not sin or vice, but when the produced things are accumulated and wait for sale/exchange then the product becomes sin. In other words, the thing, produced only for the purpose of sale, which is called a commodity in modern language, becomes sin, which coheres with the Biblical sin of Adam with apple to echo Marx “Primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race.”[8]

So the concept of sanctification/purification came into picture. Commodity exchange practice was started keeping in mind that there should be an agreement for exchange, which is sanctioned/registered/licensed by the society/institute/government in a particular period. If this process of sanctification or purification is followed in the exchange, only then the producer’s profit will be called as virtue otherwise it will be called as vice. So to speak, there can be two types of virtue─ external virtue is the received money in the form of exchange-value, i.e. capital and mental virtue is a feeling of righteousness, the religious happiness or emotional relief/joy, gained through exchange. A man─ vir─ will be called as hero when he gains virtue by following this commodity exchange norm.

With this exchange norm, Upanishadic era started against Vedic views at the end of the Vedic era. Upanishad─ upa+nishad: upa [Sanskrit: an associate, rishi which is Vedic name of a philosopher, service provider in modern marketing term]; nishad [Sanskrit: a store to exchange something, ashram which is Vedic name of a place used for the exchange of knowledge, industrial complex in modern marketing term]. In this sense, Upanishad provides philosophical or ontological knowledge through exchange. In other words, Upanishad is our most fundamental original philosophy of individualism that led to capitalism.

Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals own their capital, the external virtue, and market economy is one in which the production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market. Bernstein’s Upanishadic poetics doesn’t deny this economy of poetry but only with the mental virtue, rejecting the external virtue. That is why it is Negative Economy to negate the conventional/existing concept of capitalism. I say Upanishadic, not to mean that Bernstein’s poetics valorizes capitalism, but to mean that his process is Upanishadic that did Uttara-Mīmāṃsā (Sanskrit: higher inquiry) into Veda’s hymns through dialogue by raising a series of metaphysical objections into the achieved knowledge through Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā (Sanskrit: primary inquiry), done by Vedic philosophers. Being in the post-postmodern era, where ‘post’ does not mean mere ‘after’ but ascension, crossing over like wood (similar to the verb root utt [Sanskrit: going upwards] to make the word uttor-adhunik [Bengali: Postmodern]), it is quite inevitable for an innovative poet like Bernstein to be aversive to conventional approach. This is a process, not static but active, that needs to be anew/afresh through time with introspection into inner-self by individuals in a society, because we are not what we truly are rather we are ever to become true. It’s the eternal play between being and becoming that fuels the journey of our creation─ a process of becoming as Bernstein declares himself as “a very becoming guy” because “self-actualization a glance in a tank of concave [concatenating] mirrors. Not angles, just tangles. From which a direction emerges, purges” (1994:  16).

Pataquerical poet Bernstein’s process of the Upanishadic inquiry into reality leads his action through conflicts, struggles against the prescribed norm, standardization of language, and continuous searching for the other─ other approaches, other expressions, other values, against the exploitation, oppression and deprivation of the capitalist society. His action leads toward the scientific socialist Marxist, keeping in mind Marx’s last conclusion before death about the primitive condition of man:

[I]t was not the family that originally developed into the tribe, but that, on the contrary, the tribe was the primitive and spontaneously developed form of human association, on the basis of blood relationship, and that out of the first incipient loosening of the tribal bonds, the many and various forms of the family were afterwards developed.[9]

The present capitalist society can’t see this history of the spontaneous natural process of development and hence keeps its signature only in dollar values ignoring others. But poetry is not for sale, but for exchange. It’s value is not to be judged by the usual value of dollar. Though poetry has a negative price in the marketplace, it creates a negative value, calculated by Bernstein with Adorno’s negative dialectics where the dollar value of poetry is “the square root of the sublime times the negative sum of utopia divided by the excess derivative of anoriginality” (2021: 106).

Bernsteinian province of poetry termed the economy as─ “exchange economy”. The power of this exchange economy is an obtained currency from the muse of poetry, realized through critical discourse and counter discourse, which is “not an “explanation” of the work, which is so often at odds with the spirit of the work, but an extension of the work” (Bernstein 2016: 55). Bernstein’s exchange economy creates a model of “democratic social space” (206) to aim for a social practice where the constituted reality of the poet is reconstituted by the reader through exchange and critical reading. In this poetic market, the experience of the consumer reader can’t be commodified. If the consumer is not passive but active to respond, to “interenact” (68) to mean not only interact but to inter-enact to make it happen with the poetry without any predefined thoughts or limited forms or fixed norms of poetry, then it creates an “internal difference” with “Slant of light” (327) in Dickinson’s sense.

Hyperreal World:

As soon as Bernstein comes into mind, the words like odd, difficult, dialogue, inquiry, truth, reality, dazzle in the dark with every step in this squarer world to play an infinite chess with the move of his pawn, the promise─ “The promise of a poem, the kind of poetry I want, is that it refuses reality” (Bernstein 2021: 108). His refusal is not against reality, rather to seek transformation of our fragmented view of reality. His poem transforms the visual reality into an organic whole, which is a movement of a whole towards wholeness.

Bernstein writes, “Virtue’s sword is truth, in love with itself, at odds with others”, but what this truth is? “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”[10] is an old but gold coin where the truth of the material world is transcended to the truth of the imaginary world where emerald can be seen as green by the reflection of light through our consciousness. This is because “only the imaginary is real” (1991: 5) in the Rough Trades of Bernstein to invest in the poetic portfolio of resistance not to cash but to crash the conventional concept of reality because “There’s no fantasy like reality/ (Though reality’s not fancy at all)” (Bernstein 2021: 118). We live with this imaginal reality for the duration of the poem where poem is the inherent sound of the inner soul, charged by the invisible mysterious dark energy of mind, the source of infinite possibilities around the blank center. That is why Bernstein moves not for sailing smoothly but to keep “bailing” the open boat of truth and false in the trade of poetry because “the trades are rough/ & the tide is out” that “pulls back its/brim—in which/we spin” (Bernstein 1991: 4, 44), and in this rough trading of poetry Bernstein gives the “Testament” of truth:

Telling truth is a kind of lying since
Every truth conceals both other truths and
Plenty of falsehoods. But lying is as
Far from truth as the dead from the living.
It was never my intention to do
Either—Just to keep bailing this open
Boat drifting out toward an infinite sea. (2021: 16)

Bernstein denies the existence of single truth rather explores its possibilities to activate the passive creative matrix that creates other truths by sudden opening of a new point of view. Radical existence of every man makes a relational-angle with truth and falsity. We bare our pain with the cosine of the angle; we share our joy with the sine of the angle. Though Bernstein says “Reality don’t lie” but our paradoxical reality generates conflict that vacillates between truth and falsity. Even truth can “enshrines and engrains” (Bernstein 2021: 19) by the social and cultural canonization to imprison us into the dogmatic beliefs of religion, morality, virtue or by the political manipulation to shape our mind with factoids for political ex­pediency. Bernstein says, “The task of poetry is to speak truth to truth” (2016: 24). And to reach to that truth Bernstein says “My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?”[11]─ to profess the fundamental mantra of the philosophical investigation of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad— neti, neti (Sanskrit: not this, not this): states that to find the validity of any cognition we require not to explore its truth but falsity with the process of negation of all limiting adjuncts.

Tagore: “Truth and falsehood mingle in life—and to what God builds man adds his own decoration. Only those were pure truths which were sung by the poet” (1922: 759). The continuous uncertainty and contradiction of reality of the upside down world calls the hidden persuader within the poet to reveal the infinite within himself, the highest reality, the soul, the inner essence of being, the universe of personality. Bernstein not only bellows his ballad “Covidity” but also encourages us to face our irreparable despair with his psychoanalytic horoscope─ “Saturn’s rings surround your despair: have courage! Sing a song of childhood when you feel farthest from it” (2021: 152) to say that hope and despair are just Maya, the illusion of concept─ a pair of opposite forces that interplay in this dynamic world with multidimensional reality: have courage to accept the fact and move on.

Echoing Taittiriya Upanishad: “Brahma is truth, knowledge, and infinite”[12], Tagore identified three forms of human─ I am, I know, I express. The perception of “I am” is the truth of Brahma; “I know” is the form of knowledge and “I express” is his infinite form. Every manifestation in this world is in the form of joy of Brahma, the truth of truth, the whole, the soul. When joy sets afloat in his forms, ultimate expression of our creative matrix reveals the infinite within us because poetry is a product of an awakened poet that destroy all avidya [Sanskrit: ignorance] to explore the possibilities for expression. Our Puran [Snaskrit: ancient, used to refer to a genre of ancient Indian literature] says Satchidanandam Brahma─ where Satchidanandam is an epithet that attributed to Brahma. Three numbers of undivided attributes─ sat [Snaskrit: existence], chid [Snaskrit: quest/investigation/exploration to understand the existence], anandam [Snaskrit: extreme joy achieved by the success in the quest]. Achieving this extreme joy is called achieving Brahma. An enlightened poet accepts the reality as it is with its good and evil, with its right and wrong, and explore into the reality to understand its existence to achieve Brahma, not to achieve but to become Brahma, the extreme joy.

Bernstein addresses the truth of poetry: “Poems are neither true nor false, but they can reflect on the difference between truth and truthfulness, saying and meaning, listening and hearing” (2016: 249). A poem acts as a sense organ to reveals a new world to us to echo Tagore: “Beauty is truth’s smile/ when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.”[13] Whether beauty is truth or truth’s smile, but surely it’s omnipresent. The poet listen to the rhythm of beauty, buzzing everywhere. The poet discovers the illusion, woven into the warp and woof of light and dark, a rhythmic oscillation between hope and despair, to acknowledge the paradox of reality to personalize its impersonal beauty. Bernstein knows reality can’t be imitated. So he moves beyond the mechanical vision of eyes, beyond the wheel of time of reality, to create the hyperreality.

Patanormative World:

is more beautiful
to virtue
than compelling justice
and shattering
dissent: slashes in
a pan
that will never
absolve aesthetics. (2021: 128)

The origin of the word aesthetics is Greek aisthetikos [perceptive] but there was lot of debate to define the term. Whether it is “the science which treats the conditions of sensuous perception” or “the philosophy or theory of taste, or of the perception of the beautiful in nature and art” (OED), as the modern dictionary tries to define, the oldest language Sanskrit gives the unique verb root nand─ the mental activity that includes two mutually opposite actions. That is to refer to the action like the hide and seek game of children, like the Shiva’s tandava dance, the metaphor for cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, or the eternal rhythm of endless cycle of life and death in our material world. When a person receives this nand, he feels anandam [Sanskrit: joy, pleasure of mind]. That is to refer the joy received from the conflict or paradox between self-expansion and self–restraint, which is the very essence of our nature’s philosophy. It’s the supreme pleasure of experiencing the supernal beauty beyond ordinary materiality. It’s the joy of a child that he feels in his hide and seek game, joy of a poet/artist to write/create new poetry/art with complete freedom from the shadow and influence of signs or attributes of the old poetry/art. It’s the joy of a vira (hero) to enforce his heroic action with his own style of heroism. It’s the joy of a scientist in his innovation, joy of a philosopher to shade a new light in the discernment of truths, infinite joy of Brahma, the innerself, the highest reality, dwells in the empty space in our heart, manifests itself in manifold forms in our world. Yet for such a thing called aesthetics, the source of infinite joy, the poet has to issue an alert in our Topsy-Turvy world:

Turn Off Your Poetry Blocker
This is an initial alert. Aesthetic action
Will be taken if there is no response.  (Bernstein 2021: 130)

It’s an alert for an attack by poetry blocker. What this poetry blocker is? That is also an action, called ization─ “the process of making or the fact of putting somebody/something or being put in a place” (OED), not place but system, not all system but the system controlled by the authority. It’s an action against aesthetics─ normalization, universalization, immunization (to immune against Bernsteinian resistance though there is a shortage of vaccine now!), formalization, homogenization, hospitalization (to show hospitality by absorption against Bernsteinian Artifice of Absorption though hospital beds are not available now!). But Sanskrit, one of the oldest language of the world, verb root of any action is ─cre─ similar to cre(ate) in English that gives rise to creation, the Poe-tics that defines poetry as “The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty”[14]. Our linguistic ancestors only thought for the human of the world but couldn’t imagine the upside down world where humanism will turn to be nepohumanism that “universalizes one’s immediate preferences while stigmatizing as barbaric those that are not immediately intelligible” (Bernstein 2016: 295).  Here comes the ization, in the name of action, of the official verse culture to stigmatize the aesthetics for the sake of normalization as per the formal norm of their official principles.

Although English dictionary says normal─ “according to, constituting, or not deviating from an established norm, rule, or principle”, my ambiopic [French: double vision] vision against the official amblyopia takes an aversion from their normal. A needy person always wants to go beyond his boundary to fill up his needs. Instead of going himself, his eyes go there. But our eyes collect the image of the necessary things only by sieving out the unnecessary. That is the way noyon [Sanskrit: eye] does the action─ noy+onon by the action of noy [Sanskrit: not] where the not negates the unnecessary in one hand and on the other hand, it turns on the necessary. But official amblyopia, the single eye vision, fails to do this double action of eyes due to their failure of depth perception. That is to say official normal is nor(m) + mal to mean the malpractice of poetic norm that limits their capability of interpretation and to judge the value of others’ work. And official formal is for(m) + mal to mean the effect of malnutrition of their poetic form that fails to appreciate other forms which measures the dynamicity of the continuously changing world. When the information about an external object reaches to our mind-space, the faculty of perception or sensation of human mind perceives/senses the object under consideration to reach a workable concept to change/condition them as per their external sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But there is internal sense in human brain that connects our faculty of perception through mind and intellect. But the very dualistic view of the present upside down world divides this internal sense to connect mind to heart/soul and intellect to head/body. As soon as our view separates soul from body, mind from matter, our faculty of perception fails to sense the integral wholeness out of the fragmented view of our world. Bernstein’s poetic ambiopia follows the process of investigation through non-academic research out of strong desire that keeps the alternative path open on the face of official amblyopia that does only academic research with a definite preconceived plan that moves to a definite/fixed certainty.

There is a pun between academic and non-academic research. Due to amblyopia, academicians could see the “non” in the opposite sense only to relate non-academic with non-educated! They fail to see the double action of “non” as the Sanskrit verb root of “non” gives the idea of a mysterious double action, more than the opposite sense only. It does an “action in inaction and inaction in action” (hymn: 4.18)[15] to perform “The Yoga of Knowledge” as per our Bhagavad Gita. The man, doing action with non, possesses the knowledge of Brahma, the whole, the soul, by continuous introspection on the truth about the self with a true freedom, which is not the freedom from action but the freedom in action in our ever-changing space-time. Then this man is called wise because it is that true wisdom where truth is unfolding itself in its own endless creation. However, this “wisdom is awkward and unruly” (Bernstein 2021: 117) always; it doesn’t follow the norms of the institutional academy. That is the way Bernstein’s non-academic research moves in an open-ended mode on the face of academic one-way mode. Bernstein’s enlightened vision is, indeed, resonates with Eastern philosophy of Advaitism [Sanskrit: non-dualism] that uses the third eye to look into the inner realms and spaces of his higher consciousness to evoke a mental image out of the mechanical image formed by two eyes. Instead of single eye vision of official verse culture, third eye vision shifts our awareness from the rational mode to the intuitive mode of consciousness, originated from the dynamic interplay between the faculty of mind and faculty of intellect, the “intellectual imagination”[16] in Paul Bove’s sense. It’s not irrational either but aversive to the rigid orthodoxy of the fixed/authorized/accepted system of the official verse culture in the process of deriving aesthetic values which is continuously evolving through our space-time, much more than merely intellectual. This indeed in resonance with Zen Buddhism to echo Suzuki that the general view of life, held by the majority of people, to “imagine that their lives are logically or mathematically regulated. Zen wishes to storm this citadel of topsy-turvydom and to show that we live psychologically or biologically and not logically” (Suzuki 1934, 64).

The Bengali slang mal has double meaning─ evil as well as commodity. The verb-root of mal in Sanskrit is mol─ some entity which is nurtured within a limited boundary that may be limited form or norm or vision. Official normalization is a malpractice to commodify poetry in the art market to continue the preconceived unidirectional art history as perceived by their single eye vision. But Bernstein’s poetry is always charged with the inner force of words to perceive the inner truth, the soul of words, to make the quark of poetry in multivectorial sense to fashion the visual pun of Duchamp’s “Green Box” or Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” to “end of art” in the sense of Arthur─ art + hur─ where hur [Arabic: free, not slave][17]. That is to mean to end of art to make it free from convention of history to reconvene/reconfigure apparent discrepancies to open up a new period of history. Official verse culture takes morality as the building block of their normalization process because the letters of the word normal rearrange themselves to form moral with an extra n to mean no. The equivalent word nyaya [Sanskrit: moral] means to an action, matter, or subject that is right or true only if it has a previous history. So to speak, morality resist innovations. So the innovative poet rejects morality with scientific ethics of ’pataphysics because his conception of the world undermines any fixed morality, though holds the promise of a non-moralistic ethics: “Ethics is ironic, morality sincere. Ethics secular, morality religious. Poetics is the ethical refusal of morality in the name of aesthetics” (Bernstein 2011: 78). His poetic ethics knows no formal no normal religious sentiment and rejects the official norm of “virtuous sentiment” with the commitment to the patanorms of “poetic truthfulness”, termed as Pataqueronormativities by Bernstein. Bernstein’s truth of multidimensional reality vacillates between truth and falsity─ a contradiction not despite of but by virtue of it. Bernstein’s horoscopic voice suggests the aesthetics of evil: “defy writ to rend” (2021: 151), to challenge the code of conduct made by authority that tells you what is right or wrong, good or evil and hence “Seal the deal” with resistance because “resistance is a form of divination” (153).

So, just flip to flop the upside down world to enter into the pataquerical world of Bernstein.
Works Cited:
Bernstein, Charles. 1987. The Sophist. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press.
———. 1991. Rough Trades. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press.
———. 1994. Dark City. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press.
———. 2001. With String. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2006. Girly Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2011. Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
———. 2013. Recalculating. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2016. Pitch of Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2018. Near/Miss. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2021. Topsy-Turvy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Suzuki, D.T. 1964 [1934]. An Introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove.
Tagore, Rabindranath. 2017 [1922]. The Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore. New Delhi, India: General Press.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, R. Rhees, G. H. Von Wright. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd.

[1] Speech: “To be, or not to be, that is the question” by William Shakespeare, source:

[2] Wallace Stevens’s long poem “Notes toward a Supreme Fiction”, 1942. Source:

[3] Bernstein gives the history of this essay as, “A preliminary sketch of this essay, “Unsettling the Word,” was presented at “Tendencies: Poetics and Practice,” City University of New York Graduate Center, February 24, 2010, at the invitation of Trace Peterson, and “Rethinking Poetics,” Columbia University, June 11, 2010. Versions of the work were subsequently presented as the Lahey Lecture, Concordia University (Montreal), October 25, 2012; Yale English Department lectures, February 27, 2014; EPC’s twentieth-anniversary conference, September 12, 2014; and boundary 2’s “The Social Life of Poetic Language,” Dartmouth, May 22, 2015. The essay was completed in January 2015.” Pitch of Poetry “takes its title from Stanley Cavell’s The Pitch of Philosophy and so takes up the difference in the pitches of poetry and philosophy.”

[4] Bridgeable Lines: An Anthology of Borderless World Poetry in Bengali – An anthology with interviews & transcreation of poems of 12 American poets, coedited & transcreated by Runa Bandyopadhyay and Aritra Sanyal, published by Aihik (Earthly) in 43rd Kolkata International Bookfair in 2019.

[5] Bernstein’s Essay “The Academy in Peril: William Carlos Williams Meets the MLA”, collected in  Content’s Dream : Essays 1975-1984 by Charles Bernstein, Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1985.

[6] hismony: transformed word from “harmony” with a reference to harmonium, used by Barin Ghosal, the key poet of the Kaurab literary movement in the world of Bengali poetry in India, started in 1968, in his poetry collection Kobita Chalisa (Bengali: Hymns of Poetry), published by Kaurab Publication, Kolkata, India in 2009.

[7] Runa Bandyopadhyay Interviews Charles Bernstein,, accessed May 2021.

[8] Karl Marx. Capital, Volume One, Part VIII: Primitive Accumulation, Chapter Twenty-Six: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation. Originally published in 1867. Marxists organization website:, accessed February 2021.

[9] Capital by Karl Marx. Vol-1. This appeared as a footnote, given by Engels, in the third edition of Capital. Marxists organization website:, accessed February 2021.

[10] Poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” from Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems by John Keats, 1820., accessed February 2021.

[11] Bernstein’s commentary on “Why I Am Not a Buddhist” in Near/Miss (page: 89), cited as (Bernstein, 2018).

[12] Taittiriya Upanishad, hymn: 2.1.1, translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Kharagpur IIT, India (website), accessed February 2021,

[13] Poem from Fireflies by Rabindranath Tagore. Originally published in 1928., accessed February 2021.

[14] Essay: “The Poetic Principle” by Edgar Allan Poe. Source: The Edgar Allan Poe Society
of Baltimore website., accessed February 2021.

[15] The hymn from the chapter “The Yoga of Knowledge” Srimad Bhagavad Gita, hymn 4.18, translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Kharagpur IIT, India (website), accessed February 2021,

[16] Love’s Shadow by Paul A. Bove, Harvard University Press, Jan 2021,

[17] Wikipedia:


Leia essa mesma resenha resumida em português

 Sobre Runa Bandyopadhyay

Poeta bilíngue bengali/inglês, ensaísta, tradutora e crítica em Bengala, Índia. É cientista de profissão. Como crítica, ela inventou um novo gênero em "poesia recorrente" e foi autora de Nocturnal Whistle (2019) em inglês, Traveller to BookYard (2020), Between the Lines (2012) e Light-Travel of the Dark (2017) dois livros de histórias e duas coleções de ensaios híbridos em bengali. Ela co-editou a antologia Hardcore Kaurab-2 com Barin Ghosal em 2013 e Bridgeable Lines: An Anthology of Borderless World Poetry em 2019. É colaboradora regular em várias revistas literárias.