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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.
Despite my two-star review, I want to start by saying that if the title of this book interests you, you should read it and form your own opinions. Having said that, I found myself underwhelmed. Having a poet write an essay called "The Hatred of Poetry" is a little like having a golf pro write an essay called "Why People Hate Golf." Not that it can't be done, but one might do better to start by examining why people ACTUALLY hate poetry, rather than theorizing from an ivy-covered ivory tower about why one THINKS people hate poetry, which is what Lerner seemed to me to be doing. One of the oddest theories in this book is that people hate poems because their expectations for poetry are too high -- they want poems to be transcendent but poems rarely are (and maybe never can be). I honestly don't think that's why so many people hate poems, or poetry. I think people hate poetry because their expectations are actually quite low -- at minimum, they want what they read to make some sort of sense on a first reading -- but poems (especially modern poems) often fail to pass that very low bar. Too often, poetry reads like a transcript from a dissociative schizophrenic: words and phrases jammed together in seemingly random fashion, causing the reader to have to work too hard to figure out what the poet is writing about (Lerner's poetry is like this), or, as Stephen King complains about in On Writing, meaningless phrases such as "angry breasts." Lerner also uses odd examples for his arguments, swinging wildly from Walt Whitman to William Topaz McGonagall ("widely acclaimed as the worst poet in history”), from college-paper-like over-scanning of Emily Dickinson to the phrase, "You're a poet and you don't even know it," out of which Lerner manages to pull meaning the way a magician pulls rabbits out of a hat (I’m not saying this is magic, I’m saying it’s a trick). Given the title of this book, I was hoping Lerner might help nudge me toward loving poetry more, the way Robin Williams does for his students in Dead Poets Society. I guess my expectations were too high, because instead, I just ended up hating The Hatred of Poetry. (Actually that's overly harsh but I couldn't resist the irony.) Having said all that, I'm giving it two stars, not one, because Lerner is clearly an intelligent writer, trying to write about an interesting and worthwhile subject. I just found what he had to say unconvincing.
I have read many books about poetry and teach a poetry class at the local university. This approach is rather erratic and didn't say much new. I think the title is misleading and maybe chosen to sell books. Mr. Lerner is a talented writer who should direct his abilities to a better topic. The focus of the book leaves much to be desired as a great deal of the content has been covered by others.
Mr. Lerner's exposition is excellent; the problem is not with him. The problem is with ME. I'm simply not up to the challenge. But folks who know and understand poetry will no doubt appreciate this little tome.