Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Poetic Justice

Poetic Justice by Charles Bernstein
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

liked it
bookshelves: poetry

NOTE: The below 'review' is basically obsolete b/c of info rc'vd from Chris Mason following this. Any reader of this 'review' shd also read Chris's comment to get a fuller perspective. I accept Chris's comment that people published by pod books weren't chosen b/c of their grant-getting status. The publishing on bks by Pierre Joris & Allen Fischer supports that. Nonetheless, I leave my original 'review' MOSTLY (but not entirely) as is b/c it helps the reader understand Chris' comment & b/c it provides info of relevance.

ORIGINAL 'REVIEW' (somewhat edited):

One of the 4 bks that I know of published by the unfortunately short-lived "pod books". I've already reviewed Bruce Andrews' pod books "Love Songs". As I try to make clear every once in a while, these reviews are often just chapters (or paragraphs) in an ongoing rumination that often has little to do w/ the bk supposedly under scrutiny here. This is particularly the case now. I'm not going to say anything about Bernstein's writing - wch isn't meant as a slight of Charles.

What I am going to say something about is what motivates who gets published by who(m). I 1st got into something somewhat related a little in my review of Batworth's poetry bk [by mentioning how my personal relationship w/ the author might influence the review:] & then wrote more about it in my comments back & forth w/ writer Bruce Stater in response to HIS response to my review of a bk called "L=I=N=K=L=A=G=E".

Marshall Reese & Kirby Malone were both writers heavily interested in sound & visual poetry & 'language writing' in the mid to late '70s. They started "e pod" magazine & "pod books" to further their involvement in this interest. However, I don't think it's unfair to say that they had grant-getting interests in mind too [again, read Chris's comment following - b/c, in the light of it, what I've written here IS probably unfair:]. 'Language Writing' was the academic thrill of the mnth to grant-givers at the time. In the 1979-80 NEA Fellowships for Creative Writers, at least 14 of the recipients were associated w/ 'language writing'.

SO, it's the late 1970s & Kirby & Marshall were choosing who to publish pod books by. I'm fairly certain that "e pod" & "pod books" was supported by grant money (probably from the NEA) so keeping it all w/in the community heightened the chances of grant-decider's acceptability. Charles & Bruce were the publishers of "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" magazine wch was enjoying a prominent reputation at the time & wch had substantial participation by many writers. They were also recipients of NEA grants for 1979-80 - as was Marshall (who "pod" also published a bk by).

3 of the 4 "pod"s were thus by NEA creative writer grant recipients & the 4th was by Chris Mason - who was part of the same collective that Kirby & Marshall were [but Fischer & Joris weren't NEA grant recipients - but I didn't know about their bks:]. In Chris's case, the grant was gotten for publishing Widemouth Tapes - the audio arm of the Merzaum Collective publishing 'empire' that "pod" etc was also a part of.

I think all the above-mentioned folks do interesting work. I think Chris Mason, esp, is an excellent & unique writer. My point is more that decisions were probably made for economic reasons as much as for critical ones. By the 1981-82 NEA season it's possible that only one writer associated w/ 'language writing' got the grant. 'Language Writing' was no longer the flavor of the mnth. Kirby had moved onto theater by then, Marshall had moved onto other things too. Whether either of these guys have spent much time writing since then I don't know.

Don't misunderstand, both Kirby & Marshall have always done sincere & interesting work w/ a political bent that's rooted in current concerns. But what people don't see who are witnessing such things as bk publishing from the outside is that it's not only the mainstream popular press that has economic pressures determining content. Navigating thru the grant world involves alotof of the same pressures - just disguised. Were their other writers at the time whose work wd've been even more phenomenally of the moment theoretically & technically who might've been a better choice for a "pod book"?


Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Poetic Justice.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 29, 2008 – Shelved
March 29, 2008 – Shelved as: poetry

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris  Mason Tent, in reference to why certain authors were published by pod books, , I actually don't think they were chosen in order to expedite more grant money coming in. This was the seventies and there was a feeling that there was a lot of grant money to be had for the taking. I think there was a combination of 3 factors 1) liking the work, 2) friendship, and 3) the desire to be involved with a cool new happening movement (language poetry mostly). The other 4 pod books besides the ones listed were "water bird", kirby's first book, published in England, "phantom Pod", by Kirby, Anselm Hollo, and Joe Cardarelli (3 separate sections), and a book each by Allen Fisher and Pierre Joris. My book and Pierre's and Allen's were promised and planned while Kirby and Ro were in England, so they are more a function of the first 2 factors.
There were plenty of other people who fulfilled all the above 3 factors, but I don't think that expediting more grant money was the real reason.
Cheers! Chris

message 2: by Tentatively, (last edited Apr 03, 2008 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tentatively, Convenience Ok, thanks for the clarification Chris. I never saw Kirby's bk or Allen's or Pierre's so my view was too myopic. You've just reminded me that I have "Phantom Pod" but I'd forgotten about it (funny, considering that I was quite enthusiastic about it at the time). I just changed my review accordingly somewhat but it's mostly as it was just b/c it's more informative than anything I tried to replace it w/. If you look at it now you'll see that I've added some correctional notes & directed people to read yr comment. I shd probably just rewrite the whole damn thing & say something of substance about Bernstein's writing itself but, HEY!, it's time to move on, eh?

back to top