ALAN GILBERT: You’re the author of over a dozen books of poetry containing a wide variety of styles—from rigorous avant-garde techniques, to a form of disjunctive lyricism, to rhymed doggerel. How did you go about selecting the work for All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, which stretches across more than thirty years, beginning with a poem from 1975?
CHARLES BERNSTEIN: Jackson Mac Low called his 1986 selected poems from Roof Books Representative Works: 1938–1985. The idea was that each included piece represented a particular structure or form he used. I think of All the Whiskey in Heaven as a sampler or array. It’s a constellation of approaches to poetry. Beyond the experience of the poems themselves, I hope the book brings to mind the possibilities of poetry. I’ve done only one other collection of otherwise published work, Sun & Moon’s 2000 book, Republics of Reality: 1975–1995, which brought together the full texts of a number of out-of-print books and pamphlets, plus one new series, “Residual Rubbernecking.” Rubbernecking is when you slow your car to peer at an accident; residual rubbernecking is when you stop and stare at the site of an accident no longer present. So I guess you could say that All the Whiskey in Heaven is a product of my residual rubbernecking.