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Charles Bernstein reads from The Lives of the Toll Takers


In the Vimeo below, Charles Bernstein reads part of a poem from his book, Dark City that he made for his friend Li Zhimin, a poet and professor at Guangzhou University in China. The excerpt was selected by Li for his anthology Reading Poetry at Cambridge: Selected Readings of Modern Chinese Poetry (2018). This is for an online series that Professor Li is creating.

Because he is reading for a Chinese audience, Charles Bernstein explicates his poem after he reads it, something he would not normally do, but I like it and think that it is interesting to hear.

The poet has fun with clichés and common expressions that people use every day in English by playing with that shared understanding so that it is seen and heard and understood in a different way. The poet is the caretaker of his language, and must know it so well that he can change it and pass it on brand new, the possibilities in every word that is spoken; this is fun and serious business, and a promise too.

The Vimeo below is my version of the collaboration of these two seriously fun-loving international professors doing what they love to do. Enjoy.



from The Lives of the Toll Takers

Here is the link to the PDF of Dark City:


And here is the PDF itself:

Dark City by Charles Bernstein




Dr. Li Zhimin speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, 2008

Li Zhimin spent over a year at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a CAAP (Chinese Association of Poetry and Poetics) and Fulbright Fellow. Recently, he has written a book in English called Zhongalish, newly released and free right here in the PDF below. Enjoy. 

Zhongalish by Li Zhimin, 2021


Charles Bernstein


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