In All the Whiskey in Heaven, Charles Bernstein brings together some of his best
works of the past thirty years. This covers a large number of topics, but each of his poems
still bears the Bernstein flavor.
Two things can be said about Bernstein's poetry: it is different and it is difficult.
The author's poetry requires an investigation of language and mind. For this reason, some of
his poems require more than one reading and some meditation on the subject matter of the poem.
Some poems, such as the opening poem "Asylum," seem to wander off and make no sense. The
problem is not with the author, but with the reader's need to have things wrapped up neat and
tight. Such is not Bernstein's style.
Other poems, "Life Off" being a good example, were completely unreadable to this reviewer.
"Life Off" seems to be written in computer code, or some other form of language that would
require time to decipher the meaning of the words or entries. Again this reflects weakness on
the part of the reader and not the author.
Most of the poems can be read and, with some study and close scrutiny, the reader can make
sense of the material. These poems look at questions about the form and function of poetry.
If you like your poems in traditional style and subject, this is not the book for you.