“Many more people agree they hate poetry than can agree what poetry is,” writes Ben Lerner in this book-length essay that denounces and defends the art form by tracking the history of the public’s perception of the genre, beginning with its hatred by Greek philosophers and following through with close reading of poets such as Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Marianne Moore, and Walt Whitman. Through this personal and inventive examination, Lerner identifies and elucidates what drives readers to hate poetry and what it is that makes the genre transcendent. “All I ask the haters—and I, too, am one—is that they strive to perfect their contempt,” writes Lerner. “Even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”
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