Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English, Wins 2019 Bollingen Prize for Poetry
Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature in Penn Arts and Sciences, has been named the winner of Yale’s 2019 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. The Bollingen Prize, established by Paul Mellon in 1949, is awarded biennially by the Yale University Library through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize includes a cash award of $165,000.
Bernstein is the 51st poet to be honored with the award and joins a list of past winners that includes W.H. Auden, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Louise Bogan, Léonie Adams, Robert Frost, and Robert Penn Warren, as well as contemporary poets Susan Howe, Charles Wright, Louise Glück, Nathaniel Mackey, and Jean Valentine.
“As poet, editor, critic, translator, and educator, Charles Bernstein’s decades-long commitment to the community of arts and letters reflects a profound understanding of the importance of language in the business of culture-making,” the three-member prize judging committee said. “His extraordinary new collection of poems, Near/Miss, finds Bernstein deploying his characteristically incisive satire and sharp wit to dismantle the clichés driving public speech. Yet, in moments treading close to heartbreak, the work sounds the depths where the public poet must find the words for private grief. Bernstein’s work interrogates, restlessly, seemingly word by word, language and its performative nature.”
“The Bollingen is the ultimate American poetry prize and the honor of this award turns to pure delight when I acknowledge the award committee,” Bernstein said. “I am overwhelmed at being in the company of my fellow Bollingen winners, who include so many poets whom I read with supreme astonishment. How great that Near/Miss has been so warmly welcomed into the world.”
Bernstein is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Near/Miss, Recalculating, and All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, among many others. His collections of essays include Pitch of Poetry, Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions, and A Poetics. Bernstein is also known for his translations, collaborations with artists, and libretti. With Al Filreis, he is the co-founder of PennSound, an extensive archive of recorded poetry. Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2006. Other awards and honors include the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry, the Münster Prize for International Poetry, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.
The judges—Ange Mlinko, Claudia Rankine, and Evie Shockley—said: “Throughout his career Bernstein has facilitated a vibrant dialogue between lyric and anti-lyric tendencies in the poetic traditions we have inherited; in so doing, he has shaped and questioned, defined and dismantled ideas and assumptions in order to reveal poetry’s widest and most profound capabilities.”
“Contemporary American poetry thrives through its small scale and radical differences of form,” according to Bernstein. “Its freedom is grounded in the diverse approaches of its practitioners and in its resistance to market-driven popularity. Poetic invention is as fundamental to our democracy as the bill of rights—something to celebrate with exuberance and pleasure.”
To read the full announcement, click here.