poet Richard Kostelanetz on fascism
In advocating a certain, limited strain of innovation, Bernstein has been a masterful literary politician, in many ways the most successful successor not only to Creeley but to F.T. Marinetti, who was likewise a personable traveler better at manifestoes than poetry. Like the Futurist chief, but unlike Creeley, Bernstein displays political opinions that, only by echoing a familiar consensus, can attract an audience larger than that for poetry.
It's not safe to assume what Kostelanetz means by "better," but I find Bernstein's essays more versatile than his poetry. Bernstein offers a poetics so complex, dynamic, inclusive, weird, and even vague, that his theory doesn't stop at his own application of it, but goes further, and in more directions, a far-reaching network of winding run-on highways with mobius strip-malls and baffling four-dimensional cloverleafs.
However, I don't see any relation between the terrifying world (the futurist chef) Marinetti endorses in such passages as "We will glorify war - the world's only hygiene - militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for women" (from "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism" written, to be fair, in 1909, before two horrifying world conflicts informed the Italian definition of "war") and Bernstein's endorsement of particular strains of new poetry. When anthologist Richard Kostelanetz calls Charles Bernstein a "fascist," the reason he offers - that Bernstein once omitted certain poets from a list of new poets on page 207 of A Poetics, a book nearly a decade old (Harvard University Press, 1992) - is hardly convincing. Especially after one turns to that page and reads the admission:
I wouldn't want to give an inclusive list of this extraordinary part-generation of Newer American Poets born between 1937 and 1944, but a partial list would include ... [list of 30 poets, two songwriters, and one playwright.] ("The Second War and Postmodern Memory")
Such a Hitler analogy is a careless rhetorical move, and not an observation of history, and for Kostelanetz to compare what is (at worst) literary micropolitical maneuvering to fascism is to trivialize exactly that Third Reich that gives his argument its weight, or freight, or baggage, or momentum, which is a form of immobility.