HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 18 no. 2 (2017)

BEN LERNER. THE HATRED OF POETRY

Noelle Leslie C. De La Cruz

 

Abstract:

In the provocatively titled The hatred of poetry, poet and novelist Ben Lerner explores the question of why modern poetry, in particular the American lyric, so often inspires derision, denunciation, or proclamations of its demise. He begins by quoting from Marianne Moore’s piece, “Poetry,” in which Moore admits, “I, too, dislike it.” However, against typical expectations, Lerner’s extended essay does not turn out to be either a jeremiad or an apologia; instead, it presents a coherent philosophy of poetry which is heavily indebted to critic Allen Grossman’s notion of the virtual poem. Lerner frames several species of the hatred of poetry in terms of the incapacity of actual poems to embody the ideal poem. For Grossman, “Poetry arises from the desire to get beyond the finite and the historical—the human world of violence and difference—and to reach the transcendent or divine” (14). In light of this definition, the poet becomes a tragic figure and the poem, the proof of his or her failure. Thus, Lerner claims that people’s negative reactions to poetry is borne of the frustration inherent in “the bitterness of poetic logic” (15).