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The Spoonlight Institute is Bernheimer’s first book to appear in over a decade. The volume compiles new poems with selected works from the past quarter century, and includes his play “Particle Arms,” first written for, and produced by, the San Francisco Poets Theatre in 1982.


Born and raised in New York City, Alan Bernheimer graduated in 1970 from Yale University, where he studied with New York poets Ted Berrigan, Peter Schjeldahl, and Bill Berkson. In 1976 he moved to San Francisco and spent time with other young writers such as Rae Armantrout, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Bob Perelman, Kit Robinson, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten—a group who would soon become known as the San Francisco Language poets. Bernheimer also wrote and performed for Poets Theater and produced and hosted In the American Tree, a radio program of new writing by poets on KPFA. He translated Philippe Soupault’s Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism. His most recent book of poetry is From Nature.


Adventures in Poetry began publishing in 1968 as a mimeographed “little magazine,” and continued through 1976 with individual pamphlets, featuring work by Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bernadette Mayer, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, Anne Waldman, and many others. After a long hiatus, it began publishing books by established and new innovative writers that are available exclusively through Zephyr Press.

The Spoonlight Institute

  • The Spoonlight Institute

    Alan Bernheimer


    112 pages


    ISBN 978-09761612-8-8

  • “The Spoonlight Institute positively glows in the dark with brilliant writing. This is a book we have needed for a very long time, and it’s great to see it here.” — Robert Silliman


    “Along comes the Burnheimer Aquifer we’ve counted on without being privy to its full expanse, surfaced herewith: a great reservoir of gentle turnings, bubblings philosophically adroit. ‘Eliminate guesswork by speaking/in the language of things’ and ‘It’s only pay per view moon.’ Bernheimer’s poems sing resolutely behind the beat to catch thought’s nuance, to deliver, with unflinching punnery, the truth inside (and beyond) our fondest clichés.” — Bill Berkson


    “If you want the exhilaration of moving deafly through a rapidly expanding world, then you only have to read a few words to sense how strong the current is in The Spoonlight Institute, how illuminating the light, how intense the play of these poems. At one point in ‘Particle Arms,’ as ‘pataphysical a screwball comedy as can be written down,’ a character murmurs, ‘It’s hard finding people that down take advantage of familiarity.’ Alan Bernheimer certainly takes advantage of our familiarity. We know the language, we think. But who knew it could do that, and that?” — Bob Perelman


    “At the Spoonlight Institute that table is set, and re-set, for a play of particulars. The play is a particle accelerator, the poem a device for propelling charged particles of a language back at itself, and at the world such particles make and unmake. Or it may be the other way around, but there’s definitely a kind of atom smasher at work here, where the grain of experience runs against and through clusters of aphorism and stereotype. This book brings me very close to the frayed hem of shared speech acts, ways of thinking. Brings me, with generosity and delight and some sadness, to the eroded edges of things, including words. As it turns out most things do partake in the whole, and there’s no end to the complexity, or how far the parts can be divided and recombined.” — Stephanie Young

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