The Joy of Summaries

In case you hate the long read …

Great poets confront the limits of actual poems, tactically defeat or at least suspend that actuality, sometimes quit writing altogether, becoming celebrated for their silence; truly horrible poets unwittingly provide a glimmer of virtual possibility via the extremity of their failure; avant-garde poets hate poems for remaining poems instead of becoming bombs; and nostalgists hate poems for failing to do what they wrongly, vaguely claim poetry once did. There are varieties of interpenetrating demands subsumed under the word “poetry” — to defeat time, to still it beautifully; to express irreducible individuality in a way that can be recognized socially or, à la Whitman, to achieve universality by being irreducibly social, less a person than a national technology; to defeat the language and value of existing society; to propound a measure of value beyond money. But one thing all these demands share is that they can’t ever be fulfilled with poems. Hating on [sic] actual poems, then, is often an ironic if sometimes unwitting way of expressing the persistence of the utopian ideal of Poetry, and the jeremiads in that regard are defences, too.


Poets are liars not because Socrates says, they can fool us with the power of their imitations but because identifying yourself as a poet implies you might overcome the bitter logic of the poetic principle, and you can’t. You can only compose poems that, when read with perfect contempt, clear a place for the genuine Poem that never appears.

Ben Lerner
The Hatred of Poetry

The idiom of “hating on” in the sense to criticize is new to me. The preposition seems superfluous but not unpoetic.

And so for day 2597

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