“Ku(na)hay”: Five Questions with Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein was born in Manhattan in 1950. He has published more than twenty collections of poetry and three collections of essays. From 1978 to 1981 he co edited the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. He co founded and directed the Poetics Program at the State University of New York, Buffalo. He is the co director of PennSound and editor of the Electronic Poetry Center. He is also Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

A few things that drew me to this poet were the uniqueness of his poem “Hay(na)ku” in The Best American Poetry 2008 edition. Also, after doing a little research on Bernstein after reading a few of his poems, I found that he is a very intelligent man who is a high ranking English professor at an Ivy League school.

Patrick Burke: Who is your biggest role model and how have they influenced your poetry?

Charles Bernstein: I don’t know. A lot off what I do resists influences of which I am aware. In other words, echoes them.

PB: Do you write poetry every day and what is your favorite thing to write about?

CB: No. Nothing

PB: What is the meaning of the title of your poem “Ku(na)hay”? Why did you choose this title?

CB: Eileen Tabios invented a form she calls “hay(na)ku”: one word / two words / three words); for my poem I inverted it: three words / two / one.

PB: Does being a professor at an Ivy League school influence your poetry at all, and if so in what way?

CB: I didn’t start to teach till I was almost 40. It was already too late.

PB: What advice would you give to a student if they wanted to pursue a career in poetry?

CB:  Poetry is a form of art not expression. The reverse approach does not produce expression but only its semblance.


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