It's even bemoaned by poets: "I, too, dislike it," wrote Marianne Moore. Poetry haters aren’t rubes; they’re idealists. Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. "His struggle to give concrete form to an increasingly abstract concept of art is just 'form gulping after formlessness,' as Wallace Stevens put it. And you'll never see this message again. Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller. Publication Information. “The Hatred of Poetry does a brilliant job showing how poets ‘strategically disappoint’ our assumptions about what the medium should do . He examines poetry's greatest haters (beginning with Plato's famous claim that an ideal city had no place for poets, who would only corrupt and mislead the young) and both its greatest and worst practitioners, providing inspired close readings of Keats, Dickinson, McGonagall, Whitman, and others. 'Many more people agree they hate poetry,' Ben Lerner writes, 'than can agree what poetry is. It’s what makes poetry. He examines poetry's greatest haters (beginning with Plato's famous claim that an ideal city had no place for poets, who would only corrupt and mislead the young) and both its greatest and worst practitioners, providing inspired close readings of Keats, Dickinson, McGonagall, Whitman, and others. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. But Lerner convinced me, at least, that distrust of poetry does simmer in the United States—and that it might seep in part from our early, Romantic association between poems and personhood, our sense that poetry expresses (and arises naturally from) an irreducible self. He cannot dissolve human “violence and difference,” especially by retreating into his specific perceptions; he can only serve as “a placeholder for democratic personhood,” one that “cannot become actual without becoming exclusive.” Claudia Rankine, serving up prosy blocks of deadened description, like the transcript of a story told by a PTSD patient, makes us feel the “unavailability of traditional lyric categories; the instruction to read her writing as poetry—and especially as lyric poetry—catalyzes an experience of their loss, like a sensation in a phantom limb.”. You’ve run out of free articles. Stories from Suffragette Cityby M.J. Rose & Fiona Davis (editors), One City.One Movement.A World of Stories. Not only that, he loves poems—a much messier proposition. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner. The Hatred of Poetry By Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 86pp., $12) Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry is a slim book with a husky premise: “The fatal problem with poetry: poems.” This is Lerner’s first book since winning a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2015 for his two widely celebrated novels. It’s also comedic gold. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. Poetry—less a set of practices than a sheaf of impossible demands—inspires so many denunciations and so much hostility because, even at its best, it powerfully envisions a threshold it can’t quite clear. His confession is good strategy, an attempt to assure the unwashed masses that the author is unpretentious and beer-summit–able, never mind his critically acclaimed fiction and poetic calling. ), perhaps we experience less accessible verse as an attack on our humanity. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art. Author (Here is Lerner meshing learning with wry diffidence: “A feeble shadow of an original conception sounds like Plato, although Plato didn’t think a poet could really conceive of much.”) You might ask whether Orpheus and company truly need another defense against the haters, even one packaged as a sympathetic ontology of the hate. Hatred of Poetry does a brilliant job showing how poets “strategically disappoint” our assumptions about what the medium should do. “I, too, dislike it.” Inevitably Ben Lerner’s slim book The Hatred of Poetry begins with the opening salvo from Marianne Moore’s 1967 poem “Poetry,” which conveyed (in four crisp, if pointedly clumsy, lines) her “perfect contempt” for the art. All rights reserved. (His: a wrestling match between the real and the possible. Recommended for anyone interested in poetry." He’s not bullshitting us; his rhetorical sorcery levitates plenty of plausible claims, and ones burnished with the extra shine of his sincere belief. Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Subscribe to receive some of our best reviews, "beyond the book" articles, book club info, and giveaways by email. Her dashes—“vectors of implication,” Lerner calls them—mark the limits of language, zones of submerged meaning “where no words will do.” (I hear Sallie Tisdale here, too: “Most writers approach a new story like a boxer circling the ring—with a certain reluctance to engage and break the spell of what might be.”), Then there is Whitman, who in paradoxical runs like “I am the poet of the slaves, and of the masters of the slaves” reveals the aching impossibility of his artistic project. Maybe poetry remains atmospheric and diffuse, a lambent quality in the air. Elizabeth Bishop connected verse to “the art of losing,” a creative pursuit for virtuosos who “practice losing farther, losing faster,” falling away and away from Keats’ crystalline melody, down the stairway to heaven, headlong into the dungheap of the actual. But despite its reception as an act of high-wire trolling, Lerner’s 86-page essay makes one thing abundantly clear: He loves poetry. All rights reserved. . You can cancel anytime. See all the pieces in the Slate Book Review. The hatred of poetry: Names: Lerner, Ben. “Perhaps The Hatred of Poetry is most compelling when reflecting on how poetry shapes our childhoods. Book Number: DB085515: Title Status: Active: Medium: Digital Books: Download Link: Downloadable talking book. Lerner is a professor of English at Brooklyn College. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. Macmillan. That said, I don’t mind Lerner’s (post-modern) knack for creasing old materials into fresh critical origami. "Starred Review. “I, too, dislike it”: Lerner writes that he intones the motto as he fires up his laptop or introduces a guest at a reading or scrawls a lustrous old name across his classroom’s chalkboard.