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Angle of Yaw is my first exposure to Mr. Lerner, but I hope not the last. I am in no hurry to reach for another collection of his as I am still in the process of happily digesting this one. I have read each of the sections a few times, gaining more of a sense of the poet's skill, point of view, and incisiveness with each reading. It's a rarity, nowadays, if not an impossibility, and certainly a welcome breath of fresh air, to read (and re-read) and discover an approach to poetry that doesn't cave in with writing that's cheap in sentiment, easy to anticipate, overtly political or emotionally strained.
Pick up almost any recent "collection" of poems--from the college clique making the rounds, to what lately passes for meaningful or original coming out of the big tent readings--and you'll see what I mean. Sure, there are a lot of good poets who have carved out their niche and stayed fairly consistent from book to book. But it is stupendously rare nowadays for any poet to put out a collection that is really a collection, that is really more than a series of poems that sort of holds together. Instead, one runs across collection after collection, each with a few stand-out poems sprinkled among a lot of filler. It is as if the poet went into a recording studio with only a few hit songs knowing full well that to make an album meant fudging time (and honesty) with cover songs. The poets have either lost the knack or grown too lazy to challenge themselves, to say nothing of the reader. Remember her? That amazingly bright and quite particular reader in need of conversion, self-assurance, surprise? Mr. Lerner never lets her out of his sight.
Angle of Yaw lets us appreciate the beauty and the subtlty of profound and apolitical protest, with parts both comic and tragic, lighthearted and horrible. We are always amused. We re-read out of joy and surprise and deep reflection. We the readers are discovering something new and it comes as a relief, a huge surprise! Let me count the reasons why: it has structure (not just some poems that are related because they appear in the same book); it has density (not obscurity for obscurity's sake); and it illicits truths about how we live and who we are (not without troubling implications).