Bernstein to receive honorary degree at OWU


Groundbreaking poet, editor, critic, and activist Charles Bernstein is the author or editor of nearly 100 books, including his latest, “Topsy-Turvy.”

“Not set out to be a book about the pandemic,” The Bookseller states in its review of the tome, “this rowdy collection of poems, performances, and translations nevertheless speaks volumes about the upside-down world we have all found ourselves living in.”

Bernstein will read from his works and sign books at 4:10 p.m. March 29 in the Bayley Room on the second floor of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Beeghly Library, 43 Rowland Ave., Delaware.

At the free public event, Bernstein also will be awarded an Ohio Wesleyan Honorary Doctor of Literature degree in recognition of his decades of contributions to his craft. An honorary degree is the highest award bestowed by the university.

Bernstein was nominated for the honorary degree by David Caplan, Ph.D., OWU professor of English, interim Department of English chair, and associate director of Creative Writing.

“Bernstein’s work is widely anthologized, analyzed, and discussed,” Caplan said in his nomination. “Throughout his career, he has promoted poetic innovation, the creation of new forms and kinds of poetry. In his own poetry, he blends humor, popular culture and literary references, and cultural critique. His poetry is funny, biting, and oddly generous. Instead of avoiding clichés, Bernstein appropriates them, enlivening seemingly worn-out language and showing how poetry can be found in the unlikeliest of places.”

Of Bernstein’s leadership, Caplan continued: “In addition to writing poetry and criticism, Bernstein has acted as a pioneering literary activist, creating new venues for poetry and means of distribution. As the director/founder of PennSound and the editor and founder of the Electronic Poetry Center, he seized the opportunities that emerging technologies offered, making poetry and criticism available online to be read and discussed.”

A retired English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Bernstein’s many honors include earning Yale University’s 2019 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2006, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Early in his career, Bernstein co-edited the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, widely considered the beginning of avant-garde Language Poetry. Instead of emphasizing traditional poetic techniques, according to the Poetry Foundation, “Language poetry tends to draw the reader’s attention to the uses of language in a poem that contribute to the creation of meaning.”

The Foundation also describes his work as exploring “the wide-ranging uses of language within diverse social contexts. His poetry combines the language of politics, popular culture, advertising, literary jargon, corporate-speak, and myriad others to show how language and culture are mutually constructive and interdependent.”

Learn more about Bernstein at and more about the Ohio Department of English at


Special to The Gazette

[email protected]

Follow The Delaware Gazette on Twitter @delgazette. Like The Gazette on Facebook.

No posts to display