A New Year
The new year began, as the world fell into a state of unprecedented calm. And the farmer dropped his sickle and froze, witnessing a spectacle overwhelming in its common majesty. The sky was the brightest of blues, unblemished by cloud, the fields stretching before him were as the purest gold and without shadow. The wheat was plentiful and the hive ran with a honey rivaling the gold of the fields. Beyond, the streams were bright and clear as if poured from a crystals infinite center.
The children ceased their play and stood in baffled silence as a host of luminous balloons, wider than great ships, hovered, dipped as if in greeting, then ascended deep into that same blue.
Bowls of bread and fish and fruit materialized in the hands of the hungry. The sun drew the water from raging flood, relieving the saturated earth. The rain satiated drought and the desert flourished. Rivers teamed with fish, pink and plentiful. And the lame ran, the blind spun in a new radiance, and the sick rose refreshed.
The healing worm rose from the clay of creation and the tongue of every living thing brought forth understanding. And laughter rang out and the grieving were comforted. Bells of silver chimed and all bowed their heads, giving thanks. And rainbows circled the earth like the rings of Saturn, and all dipped their fingers into its formlessness and knew that it was good.
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 Lerner's inventive and lucid essay 'The Hatred of Poetry', Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defence 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.
CLICK HERE to read Ben Lerner's "From “The Hatred of Poetry” Does poetry make us human?" published through the Poetry Society.