The Hatred of Poetry
By Ben Lerner
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 86pp., $12)
“I too dislike it”: in his witty and appealing new book—more accurately an extended essay of 80+ pages—Ben Lerner puts forth a very simple if provocative thesis: we hate poetry because no individual poem can measure up to the ideal of poetry as something exalted and beyond human reach:
Poetry arises from the desire to get beyond the finite and the historical—the human world of violence and difference—and to reach the transcendent or divine. You’re moved to write a poem, you feel called upon to sing, because of that transcendent impulse. But as soon as you move from that impulse to the actual poem, the song of the infinite is compromised by the finitude of its terms” (p. 8).