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Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Hatred of Poetry

 In The Hatred of Poetry Ben Lerner argues

We like poetry, the idea of it, more than actual poems,

Disappointing in a number of ways and rarely

Possessing the grandeur we associate with the concept. 

He is mostly right. Speaking only for myself

Here, I find even poetry I am supposed to like,

In my own tradition of avant-garde and

Experimental poetry, to be dull 

Or else pretentious, overly precious, clever,

Or self-indulgent in innumerable ways. 

Other poetry I perhaps ought to like is too jokey

Or too earnest, overwritten, too "poetic" 

in predictable ways, or too prosaic, 

Like this poem I am now writing, 

Woodenly written, 

Simply dull or not extraordinary in the way that

"Poetry" is supposed to be. Not to mention 

The poems of trite civic platitudes and 

Overheated political rhetoric. 

All this is true, and fairly well-known too,

To anyone with minimal powers of observation.  

Yet I feel Lerner is writing. 

I do not feel this way at all 

About poems like Keats's "To Autumn." 

In this case, the poem is superior to any abstract 

Or honorific, aspirational idea of Poetry with a capital P.  

Moreover, the experience of reading poems like this 

And even some others that are not quite so great,

Or great in unkeatsian, unpredictable ways, 

By Clark Coolidge, Alice Notely or my friend Tony Robinson

(You can put in your own names here) 

Far surpasses any disappointment I feel 

At the the vast swaths of crappy poetry and

Has given my life the little meaning that it has. 

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