In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish poetry books of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.
All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems
By Charles Bernstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $26
Co-founder of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, Charles Bernstein has long been recognized as one of the key avant-garde figures on the contemporary poetry scene. Until now, however, most of his work has been published by university or indie presses. This handsome sampling of his oeuvre presented by FSG is a reason for celebration, yet it is bittersweet, for doesn’t it imply a shift toward the mainstream? Or is it vice versa, and we have all become, in a sense, avant-garde? The Jewish angle in Bernstein’s work is complex, fraught with ambiguity and tension, though thankfully, also with humor. It is discussed in further detail in last year’s “Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture” (University of Alabama Press) which, aside from Bernstein’s work, contains the poetics of many of his excellent colleagues.
Read the Forward’s review of ‘All the Whiskey in Heaven’ here.