Eldis, thanks for your great letter to Dispatches. The following one line from it may be a better riposte to Lerner’s argument than anything I said in my review:
No one can experience a poem the same way twice.
I love that, for how it immediately renders any poetical reaction–individual or social–potentially transient and provisional. I know you are saying that no serious reader ever stays the same, and you are right. But one could also say that a strong poem keeps flowing, too; for poems, as well, are carried by time, and you can never step in the same one twice.
And Ted, thanks for writing and also for that great tape of Ralph Maud. If you want to send us the tape of your famous interview with Lisa Robertson, we’ll put that up, as well.
I love the idea that you have to hate poetry before you can love it. I don’t know if that is also the case with love of other things, including people, but it’s probably true for poetry. Or at least it’s probably true that there’s no love for poetry without a simultaneous disgust for it. A disgust that might more deeply be a disgust at oneself for loving poetry so. Because who wants to love something that really isn’t there, that won’t show its face? Something that fails so often, its identity is a chimera? The lover doesn’t even know what the beloved is, you know what I mean? (If it seems I am sounding a bit like Ben Lerner in saying that, I’m really not. I’m saying Poetry likely doesn’t exist, period. Also, when you read the book, you will see that my critique of it is correct.)
Thanks to both of you.