Why Do You Love the Poem?

Charles Bernstein – 1950-

For the sentiment. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the sentiment.
For the message. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the message.
For the music. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the music.
For the spirit. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the spirit.
For the intelligence. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the intelligence. 
For the courage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the courage.
For the inspiration. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the inspiration. 
For the emotion. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the emotion. 
For the vocabulary. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the vocabulary. 
For the poet. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the poet.
For the meaning. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the meaning.
For what it stands for. — Then you don’t love the poem you love what it stands for.
For the words. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the words.
For the syntax. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the syntax.
For the politics. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the politics.
For the beauty. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the beauty.
For the outrage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the outrage.
For the tenderness. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the tenderness.
For the hope. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the hope. 
For itself. — Then you love the poem.

Charles Bernstein

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About This Poem

“I’d prefer to leave this commentary blank. The kind of poetry I want doesn’t follow rules: it makes up its own rules. Perhaps my commentary needs a commentary? The poem is itself a series of commentaries. The idea of ‘blank’—letting the work stand for itself—is my commentary on the poem. In other words, if you love the poem for what it is about, you don’t love the poem but what it’s about. Or perhaps you could say the commentary is the poem and the poem the commentary. I get things all, well, Topsy-Turvy.”
Charles Bernstein

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Thank You For Saying Thank You (audio only)

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Charles Bernstein

2001

Death Is the Cool Night (audio only)

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Charles Bernstein

2001

A Defense of Poetry (audio only)

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Charles Bernstein

2001

Related Poems

A True Poem

I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.

Exactly.

Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.

Why?

Why do I keep working on it? 

Nobody will ever see it. 

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

Lloyd Schwartz

2000

El Poema / The Poem

A Octavio Paz

El poema gira sobre la cabeza de un hombre 
en círculos ya próximos ya alejados

El hombre al descubrirlo trata de poseerlo 
pero el poema desaparece

Con lo que el hombre puede asir
hace el poema

Lo que se le escapa
pertenece a los hombres futuros

          *

For Octavio Paz

The poem spins over the head of a man 
in circles   close now   now far

The man discovers it   tries to possess it 
but the poem disappears

The man makes his poem
from whatever he can grasp 

That which escapes
will belong to future men

Homero Aridjis

2001

Prefix: Finding the measure

Finding the measure is finding the mantram,
is finding the moon, as index of measure,
is finding the moon's source;

                                         if that source
is Sun, finding the measure is finding
the natural articulation of ideas.

                                              The organism
of the macrocosm, the organism of language,
the organism of I combine in ceaseless naturing
to propagate a fourth,
                               the poem,
                                               from their trinity.

Style is death. Finding the measure is finding
a freedom from that death, a way out, a movement
forward.

             Finding the measure is finding the
specific music of the hour,
                                     the synchronous
consequence of the motion of the whole world.

Robert Kelly

1995

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