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Praised in recent years as a “calculating, improvisatory, essential poet” by Daisy Fried in the New York Times, and as “the foremost poet-critic of our time” by Craig Dworkin, Charles Bernstein is a leading voice in American poetry. Near/Miss, Bernstein’s first poetry collection  in five years, is the apotheosis of his late style, thick with off-center rhythms, hilarious riffs, and verbal extravagance.

This collection’s title highlights poetry’s ability to graze reality without killing it, and at the same time implies that the poems themselves are wounded by the grief of loss. The book opens with a rollicking satire of difficult poetry—proudly declaring itself “a totally inaccessible poem”—and moves on to the stuff of contrarian pop culture and political cynicism—full of malaprops, mondegreens, nonsequiturs, translations of translations, sardonically vandalized signs, and a hilarious yet sinister feed of blog comments. At the same time, political protest also rubs up against epic collage, through poems exploring the unexpected intimacies and continuities of “our united fates.” These poems engage with works by contemporary painters—including Amy Sillman, Rackstraw Downes, and Etel Adnan—and echo translations of poets ranging from Catullus and Virgil to Goethe, Cruz e Souza, and Kandinsky.

Grounded in a politics of multiplicity and dissent, and replete with both sharp edges and subtle intimacies, Near/Miss is full of close encounters of every kind. 

The audio version of the book is read by the author.


192 pages | 6 color plates | 6 x 9 | © 2018 

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature



“One might almost compare reading a Bernstein poem to walking through a New York City street during a rainstorm. You cannot but enjoy the way the neon signs and streetlights are mirrored in the myriad puddles created by the cracked sidewalks; but as you leap over them you land down hard on the concrete, sometimes with water on your pant legs. . . . Beautiful and lyrical . . . . These poems all made me laugh and cry, sometimes when reading a single page.” 


“‘Nothing can be truly interesting except the exhaustive,’ Thomas Mann wrote a long time ago. Many of these poems suggest a return to that spirit, in a poetry of wit, ideas, and exploration, with both ease and elegance. These are poems you want to put down and pick up again. And when you do, you find something you hadn’t seen last time. It’s a book I’m glad to have. You’ll be glad you have it, too.”

Samuel R. Delany, author of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

". . . the poet is clear-headed as he somersaults through Near/Miss,  a book that is a blast to read."

Brooklyn Rail

Table of Contents

Thank You for Saying You’re Welcome
In Utopia
High Tide at Race Point
Don’t Tell Me about the Tide . . .
Grief Haunts the Spoken
Nowhere Is Just around the Corner
S’i’ fosse
The Bluebird of Happiness
Catachresis My Love
Otherwise He’d Be Dead
This Poem Is a Hostage
The Lie of Art
Why I Am Not a Hippie
Apoplexy / Apoplexie
Truly Unexceptional
All Poetry Is Loco
I Used to Be a Plastic Bottle
Why I Am Not an Atheist
The Island of Lost Song
Confederate Battle Flag
Sacred Hate
Me and My Pharaoh . . .
Catullus 70
Where My Bread Is Buttered
He Said He Was a Professor
Autobiography of an Ex-
Why I Am Not a Buddhist
Ballad Laid Bare by Its Devices (Even)
Also Rises the Sun
Concentration (An Elegy)
How I Became Prehuman
Pinky’s Rule
My Mommy Is Lost
Better Off Dead
Water Under the Bridge . . .
Unconstrained Writing
Ugly Duckling
Beyond Compare
The Pond Off Pamet Road
The Nun’s Story
Our United Fates
To Gonzalo Rojas
I Don’t Remember
Contact Western Union Very Urgent
Her Ecstasy Is Abstract
At Sunset, after the Plum Blossoms Begin to Fall . . .
Each Separate Dying Ember
Don’t Say I Passed When I Die
Ring Song
God’s Silence
Doggone Sane
Wild Turning
This Poem Is a Decoy
My Luck
Mystic Brokerage
Seldom Splendor
Song of the Wandering Poet
In the Meantime
Before Time
What Makes a Poem a Poem?
There’s a Hole in My Pocket
Song Dynasty
Lacrimae Rerum
Fare Thee Well

Notes and Acknowledgments


Yale University: The Bollingen Prize for Poetry

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