This Thursday the Henry will be hosting a reading by Bill Berkson from a new publication, Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2009), the reading will be followed by a book signing.
Born in New York in 1939, Bill Berkson is a poet, critic, teacher and sometime curator, who has been active in the art and literary worlds since his early twenties. Director of Letters and Science at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1993 to 1998, he taught art history, critical writing and poetry and directed the public lectures program there from 1984 to 2008.
Titled after a Jackson Pollock painting at once figural and abstract, this collection spans nearly fifty years of Bill Berkson’s poetry in all its deftness and variety. His poems, full of nuance, intensity, and exuberant wit, spread meaning across the page like quicksilver. Engaging in a mix of topics and styles, Berkson deals with aspects of the observable world, dreams, art, elements, and ecstasy to create a body of work suffused with light.
He is the author of eighteen books and pamphlets of poetry—including, recently, Gloria, a portfolio of poems with etchings by Alex Katz (Arion Press, 2005), Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently (The Owl Press, 2007), Goods and Services (Blue Press, 2008), and most recently, Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2009). During the 1960s he was an editorial associate at Art News, a regular contributor to Arts, guest editor at the Museum of Modern Art, an associate producer of a program on art for public television, and taught literature and writing workshops at the New School and Yale University. In the mid-1980s he resumed writing art criticism on a regular basis, contributing monthly reviews and articles to Artforum from 1985 to 1991; he became a corresponding editor for Art in America in 1988 and also writes frequently for such magazines as Aperture, Modern Painters, Art on Paper, and others. As a curator he has organized or co-curated such exhibitions as Ronald Bladen: Early and Late (SFMoMA), Albert York (Mills College), Why Painting I & II (Susan Cummins Gallery), Homage to George Herriman (Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery), and Facing Eden: 100 years of Northern California Landscape Art (M.H. de Young Museum). Past recipient of awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artspace, Yaddo, the Briarcombe Foundation, the Fund for Poetry, the Poets Foundation, and the American Academy in Rome, he was Distinguished Paul Mellon Lecturer for 2006 at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and was awarded the 2008 Goldie for Literature from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. A collection of his criticism, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writings, appeared from Qua Books in 2004, and Sudden Address: Selected Lectures 1981– from Cuneiform Press, in 2007. A new volume of his art writings and interviews, The Ordinary Artist, will follow soon.