I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized So Many Haters

So Many Haters

Michael Hinds
The Hatred of Poetry, by Ben Lerner, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 96 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1910695159 No Art: Poems, by Ben Lerner, Granta, 304 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-1783782741 Readers of the Diary section of the London Review of Books will feel a bit cheated by Ben Lermer’s The Hatred of Poetry, should they have doled out £9.99 for the Fitzcarraldo Press book. That newspaper was where Lerner originally published a piece of nearly four thousand words in June 2015 entitled “On Poetry and Why I Dislike It”, riffing initially on Marianne Moore’s famous opening to “Poetry”: “I, too, dislike it”. Within a year, and with the addition of a few more thousand words and the deployment of a massive font, the essay became a provocative little book, proclaiming hatred at a substantial mark-up. Hatred clearly has more sex and market appeal than dislike, of course; you can hardly imagine getting excited at Catullus saying “I like and I dislike.” The word “hatred” exercises us, as it should, and Lerner’s book plays a clever game of luring its potential reader into a state of radical agreement or dissent; yet it is not really an exercise in that kind of oppositional thinking, nor is it providing the hard sell or posturing that its title implies. It should also be admitted, however, that hatred is not really what it was either, what with practically every web jockey or pop idol spending most of their time demanding that we care about the rough handling they get from “haters”. There is a lot of real hate out there, of course, but it has also become a familiar mode of simulation. In the middle of so much hating, true or false, what is especially contemptible about poetry? Lerner understands such contradictions very well, and for anyone familiar with his fiction this will come as no surprise. In those books, he has proven to be just about the most self-conscious writer that we have about poetry in this cultural moment, particularly in terms of its precarious relationship to the dominant narratives of money and crisis. What makes him particularly astute, however, is that he queries poetry in terms that we should query everything. If we ask what poetry is worth, why not ask what everything is worth? In Leaving the Atocha Station, his brilliantly corrosive novella of 2011, his protagonist is a wretched example of the poet-as-bounder, necking back prescription drugs, booze and…

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