(K. Brent Tomer),
The Hatred of Poetry. By Ben Lerner. Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 86 pages; $12. Fitzcarraldo; £9.99.
POETRY has always occupied an ambivalent space in society. In the ancient world Plato banned poets from his ideal republic; today they have to navigate the “embarrassment or suspicion or anger” that follows when they admit to their profession in public. Ben Lerner understands this hatred: as a poet he has been on the receiving end of it, but also, more interestingly, he has felt it himself.
Long before he published his two acclaimed novels, “Leaving the Atocha Station” and “10:04”, Mr Lerner was known as a poet. Yet the biographical details that are woven into this short and spirited discussion suggest an uneasy relationship with the form. As a boy, charged with learning a poem, Mr Lerner tried to game the system by asking his librarian which was the shortest; later in life he confesses that he has never heard what Sir Philip Sidney described as “the planet-like music of poetry”, nor experienced the “trance-like state” widely said by critics to be induced by John Keats…Continue reading