August 30, 2016

The Love and Hatred of Poetry


If you are a reader of this blog, the chances are that you are NOT a poetry hater. But I discovered a book, THE HATRED OF POETRY, by Ben Lerner that is about those who do hate it.

Lerner is not a hater. He is the author of three books of poems and two novels. But he does feel there are haters.

In a review of the book by Craig Morgan Teicher, he starts by saying:
Although Ben Lerner’s latest book is titled “The Hatred of Poetry,” I am almost certain that poetry is less hated now than it has ever been. I don't think the readers who would be drawn to this book — poetry fans with their dukes up — actually need it at all. And an actual hater of poetry wouldn't get past the first page.

Lerner's book uses Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry,” for its opening - "I, too, dislike it" but Moore continues:
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.

As a poet, I meet lots of people who don't like poetry, though "hate" may be too strong verb to use. Blame school or blame poets and poems that plot not to be understood, I think poetery is more popular now than it was in the 20th century. I agree with the reviewer who says that "Poetry is read by a larger number of people than ever before, if only because it is written by more people than ever before, due in large part to the proliferation of MFA programs..."

Yes, it is an incestuous popularity. Poets love poetry. Poets buy poetry books and go to readings. Ask if you give a reading how many people in the audience are poets. A lot. And there are more readers who enjoy poems that allow them in without pain, and enjoy hearing poets read their work and talk about it.

That is always true at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival which celebrates 30 years of gathering those kinds of people this October.

Finally, back to Moore's poem, which concludes:

In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

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