Charles Bernstein

“Veil” is my most visually oriented work. The visual emblem is produced by several layers of overtyping, so that much, but not all, of the freely composed writing is obliterated. One model I had was Morris Louis’s “Veil” paintings, where successive stains of color occlude the inner layers, though at the edges the brightest of the suppressed underlayers of color shine through, ecstatically.

The sense of stain, as in soiling, and its associated sadness, is crucial; but also, as in biochemistry, the stain allowing you to identify otherwise invisible substances. In this sense, my poetry is an acoustic staining.

In the Hawthorne story, “The Minster’s Black Veil,” the minister who veils his face gives an explanation that I use as the epigraph for the book: “There is an hour to come when all of us shall cast aside our veils. Take it not amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape till then.” Our language is our veil, but one that too often is made invisible. Yet, hiding the veil of language, its wordness, its textures, its obstinate physicality, only makes matters worse. Perhaps such veils will be cast aside in the Messianic moment, that utopian point in which history vanishes. On this side of the veil, which is our life on earth, we live within and among the particulars of a here (hear) and now (words that speak of and to our condition of everydayness).
bernstein 2
bernstein 2