Alan Bernheimer : From Nature
Grounded in vernacular and yet displacing it, Alan Bernheimer makes poetry that is somehow aphoristic, surreal, and down to earth. “Speaking / in the language of things,” From Nature revels in the present: what can be said in it and with it, without permitting the future to “spoil the present.” These poems seem to float on the surface of language, which is after all where we spend most of our time. The prose is as rhythmically propulsive as the poetry is honed and full of bright coinages (“beautilities” anyone?). From Nature is a “travel size heartthrob” where “it feels great being anyplace” because anyplace is where Alan Bernheimer makes poems out of sheer air.
“Philosophy should come out to play,” says Alan Bernheimer – and in From Nature, it does. What I want to know is how poems can be both so angst-laden and so buoyant. These poems seem like a record of what one notices while falling from such a height that free fall is indistinguishable from floating. They show how we might give up ownership of words/experiences while wondering “if any of these places are open for breakfast.”
Alan Bernheimer's quick-moving, witty, angular poems make a point of pulling the rug out from under. Don't take us, they seem to be saying, too seriously. But for all their jump-cuts, puns, bumper-to-bumper phrasings, the poems are very serious indeed, with real life just beside or beneath the language play. Whether the dreamlike prose poems in the second section are recorded dreams or imaginative scenarios, their disturbing oddnesses stem from real people and real situations, culminating in the resonant (and wonderfully titled) "Characteristic Café" and "Musée Mécanique" with details à la Raymond Roussel. Cover to cover, this is an imaginative, invigorating book.
Paperback. 82 pages. Twenty-six copies lettered and signed by the author.