The Hatred of Poetry, Ben Lerner

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No art has been denounced as often as poetry. It’s even bemoaned by poets: ‘I, too, dislike it,’ wrote Marianne Moore. ‘Many more people agree they hate poetry,’ Ben Lerner writes, ‘than can agree what poetry is. I, too, dislike it and have largely organized my life around it and do not experience that as a contradiction because poetry and the hatred of poetry are inextricable in ways it is my purpose to explore.’

In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art. He examines poetry's greatest haters (beginning with Plato’s famous claim that an ideal city had no place for poets, who would only corrupt and mislead the young) and both its greatest and worst practitioners, providing inspired close readings of Keats, Dickinson, McGonagall, Whitman, and others. Throughout, he attempts to explain the noble failure at the heart of every truly great and truly horrible poem: the impulse to launch the experience of an individual into a timeless communal existence. In The Hatred of Poetry, Lerner has crafted an entertaining, personal, and entirely original examination of a vocation no less essential for being impossible.

Nominated by Niamh O Malley

Paperback
120pp. | 130 x 197 mm
Design: Ray O’Meara
Typeset: Fitzcarraldo
Printed: TJ International
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions

Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays. Founded in 2014, it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language. The series, designed by Ray O’Meara, are published as paperback originals with French flaps, using a custom serif typeface (called Fitzcarraldo). Fitzcarraldo Editions publishes, among other authors, 2015 and 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature laureates Svetlana Alexievich and Olga Tokarczuk.