Lerner, Ben. The Hatred of Poetry. Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017.
Phillips, John W.P. Derrida Now: Current Perspectives in Derrida Studies. Polity, 2016.
Lerner discusses a historical distaste for and marginalization of poetry, which in his roundabout argument cements its relevance. Lerner’s voice is amusing, coming across like many poets and writers who denounce their own craft yet continue to thrive in the very fact of this absurdity. He writes, “the problem with poetry: poems” and “poetry isn’t hard, it’s impossible” (7, 23). Lerner describes poetry as a desire to get beyond the historical and finite and to reach the transcendental. For Lerner, a poet is someone called upon by this transcendental impulse, but who remains confined within human limits and logic and therefore will always be forced to compromise the message: “Thus, the poet is a tragic figure. The poem is always a record of failure” (8). He draws similarities between the worst and best poems stating that both types “rage against the merely actual [and] have a perfect contempt for it” (or at least readily inspire such contempt) (37). He details the need for negativity or absence in poetry and other common threads that hold poems together, denouncing the too-particular and personal poets. He address the avant-garde poet’s desire to reject the historical failure of poetry to induce grand political change. While the avant-garde imagines a “future it wants to bring about. . .this disappointment in the political feebleness of poetry in the present unites the futurist and the nostalgist and is a staple of mainstream denunciations of poetry” (42). This book goes on cataloguing examples of the hatred of poetry, a feeling the author and poet shares, in order to deepen and lean into this distaste. He believes that in creating a place for this hatred, the feeling might come to resemble love.