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This is a really wonderful book of poetry. I also really enjoyed Angle of Yaw and The Lichenberg (sp?) Figures. This is very different but as good as Angle of Yaw in my opinion (both are better than Lichenburgh, which is still worthwhile).The title poem is the standout part of this work. I found it challenging, so I just decided to write all over it as I read. This is very helpful, as the lines of the poems are often simultaneously interpretable as continuing to the following line, and/or skipping a line and continuing to the following-following line (or some other arrangement). There are lots of little surprises if you pay close attention, such as the structural link between pages 22/23 and 46/47. I have finished the book and scratched notes and drawn arrows on literally every page, but I'm pretty confident I will continue to find novelty in this book as long as I keep returning to it.
It's been a while since I bought this book. Mean Free Path has grown to be one of my favorite poems. Ben Lerner is an excellent poet that understands contemporary language, and culture. Presenting it to us in its rawest form.
The title is the rejoinder to the poetic effort occurring in this collection. In terms of meaning and versified possibilities of thought experience, there is a mean path by which a poem can stand as indicative, representative, or expressive of some idea or emotion or thought. This seems to be the ethos of this profoundly re-readable, intelligent, and imaginative work. The poems probe into the schema of linguistic potentiality with meter that is fresh and enjoyable, but also ponderous and difficult. It asks of the reader's attention to culture, but also the minutiae of detail in experience, such that it asks what exactly it is to have language as a society whose personal and private spheres are ever more interconnected and wrapped up in the economy of meanings. And on a level of technique, Ben Lerner is one of the few contemporary poets seemingly still seriously taking up language with dignity and consideration. Which is not to detract from those other wonderful poets, but Lerner is headed for the canon; absolutely.