The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner


Reviewed by Chris Tonelli, Director of Communication Strategy, NCSU Libraries

Somebody finally gives poetry a break...thanks, Ben Lerner! The Hatred of Poetry diagnoses why every few years our culture declares that, or at the very least asks if, poetry is dead. His basic thesis is that there are two kinds of poetry haters, both of which, he argues, are pretty unreasonable/irresponsible. One line of haters sets up unreachable expectations for poetry--that it can cause in the reader some sort of divine transformation. Most things fail under such scrutiny, and poetry is no different it turns out. The other camp goes one step further, revising history so that it contained poetry that actually achieved such lofty heights, and then unfavorably compares anything written since. No matter where on that spectrum a reader falls, Lerner, himself a lapsed poet--his two most recent books are novels--gives a whirlwind tour through the history of such treatises and provides a few useful lenses through which to view them.