August 24, 2006

Charles Bernstein: 'Making Words Visible' (284–286)

Reviewing Hannah Weiner, The Clairvoyant Journal (1978).

Bernstein begins with this comment:

'We all see words: signs of a language we live inside of. & yet these words seem exterior to us—we see them, projections of our desires, and act, often enough, out of a sense of their demands.' (284)

Bernstein describes the poet, Weiner, as ''living a life inside of language' as she projects words onto people, objects and herself (284). These words are dictated to Weiner by voices. He writes of her as having a kind of omniscience about the working of language as she is 'inside language and looking out onto it' (284). Yet Weiner's work retains its energy via its diaristic qualities that 'fuse the eruptive elements ("voices")' (284). Bernstein is enlivened by the interruptions in the text that unsettle its linear arc – interruptions that ponder how to continue writing, that think self–consciously about the writing process.

Bernstein suggests that the fact that the book is made up of debris makes it an unsettling read. However, he is adamant that 'Weiner has explored—come upon—the language that fills, and often enough, controls our lives (everyday, common place: she says "group mind")' (286). Bernstein suggests that as she thinks self–consciously about language, Weiner offers the possibility of freeing oneself from domination by it.

The L=A=N-G=U=A-G=E Book . Ed. Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press, 1984.

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