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wordy, rambling, but insitive and well written. I feel like it's something a poetry enthusiast would enjoy very much, but I, a creative writing student, would have given it a pass if my teacher hadnt reccomended it to me. It doesnt have chapters which makes it hard to pick up again after being put down, but is short enough to read in a two hour or so sitting.
This is a beautiful edition and I am glad this book made me aware of that Marianne Moore poem. Unfortunately there is little genuine here, or rather, it is genuine self-absorbed nonsense. Perhaps buy it and read it for yourself, friends of mine revere Lerner as a God, maybe his wisdom is lost on me. Either way I'm keeping it because I like the way this edition looks on my bookshelf, I am a self-absorbed piece of trash even though I dislike this book.
Ben Lerner's view of poetry is bracing, smart, original and humbling. All poetry must fail, he posits, because language is too limited to express our deepest feelings. We can dream we've written the perfect poem, but when it comes to setting it down, we fail (or, as Coleridge claimed, some jerk from Porlock comes along to spoil our ecstatic vision). Non-poets complain that poems are too complicated or abstruse (or they were ruined for poetry by a high school teacher insisting on meaning and memorization); traditional poets bemoan the loss of rhyme and meter; post-modern poets argue for purity of sound, and total freedom of form. That is, everyone hates poetry because it cannot possibly succeed, regardless of type. Yet, as Lerner's presiding genius, Marianne Moore, wrote:
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it after all, a place for the genuine.
That is, we should read poetry with no illusions, even with contempt for its failure, but to recognize that so many poems stir something in us, give solace in bad times, delight elsewise. Robert Frost said a poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom. We shouldn't expect any more.