Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226783604 Published April 2021
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Downloadable Audio $25.00 ISBN: 9780226818290 Will Publish April 2021


Charles Bernstein


Charles Bernstein

176 pages | 1 color plate, 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2021
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226783604 Published April 2021
E-book $10.00 to $24.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226783741 Published April 2021
Downloadable Audio $25.00 ISBN: 9780226818290 Will Publish April 2021
In his most expansive and unruly collection to date, the acclaimed poet Charles Bernstein gathers poems, both tiny and grand, that speak to a world turned upside down. Our time of “covidity,” as Bernstein calls it in one of the book’s most poignantly disarming works, is characterized in equal measure by the turbulence of both the body politic and the individual. Likewise, in Topsy-Turvy, novel and traditional forms jostle against one another: horoscopes, shanties, and elegies rub up against gags, pastorals, and feints; translations, songs, screenplays, and slapstick tangle deftly with commentaries, conundrums, psalms, and prayers.

Though Bernstein’s poems play with form, they incorporate a melancholy, even tragic, sensibility. This “cognitive dissidence,” as Bernstein calls it, is reflected in a lyrically explosive mix of pathos, comedy, and wit, though the reader is kept guessing which is which at almost every turn. Topsy-Turvy includes an ode to the New York City subway and a memorial for Harpers Ferry hero Shields Green, along with collaborations with artists Amy Sillman and Richard Tuttle. This collection is also full of other voices: Pessoa, Geeshie Wiley, Friedrich Rückert, and Rimbaud; Carlos Drummond, Virgil, and Brian Ferneyhough; and even Caudio Amberian, an imaginary first-century aphorist.

Bernstein didn’t set out to write a book about the pandemic, but these poems, performances, and translations are oddly prescient, marking a path through dark times with a politically engaged form of aesthetic resistance: We must “Continue / on, as / before, as / after.”

The audio version of Topsy-Turvy is performed by the author.
Book One: Cognitive Dissidence
Book Two: As I Love
Book Three: Locomotion
Book Four: Last Kind Words
Notes and Acknowledgments
Review Quotes
Jeremy Sigler | Tablet
“Bernstein is less the furloughed bohemian imagining that he is writing only for himself—not marooned, disowned, or marginalized. Instead, he is employed, populated, by poetry. He is well-read and plugged in. . . . [His] poetry is indeed topsy-turvy. Is he playing a game with our emotions? That is for the reader to decide.”
The Bookseller
"Not set out to be a book about the pandemic, this rowdy collection of poems, performances, and translations nevertheless speaks volumes about the upside-down world we have all found ourselves living in."
Ange Mlinko, Claudia Rankine, and Evie Shockley, Bollingen Prize Committee
“As poet, editor, critic, translator, and educator, Bernstein’s decades-long commitment to the community of arts and letters reflects a profound understanding of the importance of language in the business of culture-making. Throughout his career Bernstein has facilitated a vibrant dialogue between lyric and anti-lyric tendencies in the poetic traditions we have inherited; in so doing, he has shaped and questioned, defined and dismantled ideas and assumptions in order to reveal poetry’s widest and most profound capabilities.”
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