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Mean Free Path Kindle Edition
“Lerner [is] among the most promising young poets now writing.”—Publishers Weekly
“Sharp, ambitious, and impressive.” —Boston Review
National Book Award finalist Ben Lerner turns to science once again for his guiding metaphor. “Mean free path” is the average distance a particle travels before colliding with another particle. The poems in Lerner’s third collection are full of layered collisions—repetitions, fragmentations, stutters, re-combinations—that track how language threatens to break up or change course under the emotional pressures of the utterance. And then there’s the larger collision of love, and while Lerner questions whether love poems are even possible, he composes a gorgeous, symphonic, and complicated one.
You startled me. I thought you were sleeping
In the traditional sense. I like looking
At anything under glass, especially
Glass. You called me. Like overheard
Dreams. I’m writing this one as a woman
Comfortable with failure. I promise I will never
But the predicate withered. If you are
Uncomfortable seeing this as portraiture
Close your eyes. No, you startled
Ben Lerner is the author of three books of poetry and was named a finalist for the National Book Award for his second book, Angle of Yaw. He holds degrees from Brown University, co-founded No: a journal of the arts, and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B00B0YPJSS
- Publisher : Copper Canyon Press (December 18, 2012)
- Publication date : December 18, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 281 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 96 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,969 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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--a poem for Ben Lerner et al
Look, reader, I'm writing this poem
Built of echoes, self-same but full of
Minor disharmonies. Look I'm writing,
Reader, repetition. I had meant to write
A poem inching through echoes,
Love, continental theory,
To the grand scientific major,
To the world and all things it it, read it
Fast. Faster, reader, I'm writing
This poem, look, I repeat
Myself through a bunch more
Lines, phrases, impressive, not?
I had meant to write, reader,
A poem to my cat, but here
A photon and another photon enter
Effecting a dance of sub-
Atomic miracles, the world as we know it,
Also bullets, tanks, human miseries,
Etc... Years go by, reader, I'm still
Writing, soon I'll be finished.
[pages of illustration]
That's the parody I was moved to write after a second read-through of this pleasurable volume - "pleasurable" is the right word I believe, as the poems are nothing if not sensuous, in their own way). Toss in some Russian novels, some theory (in the literary sense), and there you have it. Lerner manages more gracefully than my parody, of course - the poems propel you forward, and are more lyrical than your average theory-laden stuff. The weaknesses are easy to point out - for example, the possibility of writing a poetry that's equal to our time is a vast, fashionable, but not terribly interesting question! The other problem is the shadow of industrial and military doom that make this a very somber book indeed. It's reflective of the time, but I am reminded of a certain philosopher's saying that "whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent." I am also reminded of that commercial that shows a child in bed with pictures of industrial pollution projected onto the wall and very ominous miminalistic music playing. The point is to instill (and not to deal with) fear and misgivings. I'm not saying that Lerner is so nefarious (though who knows!), but poetry that constantly alludes to such things without making clear and cogent statements (which may not be possible, of course) provokes my skepticism. Anyway, taken on their (or rather, on our own chosen) limited terms, these poems succeed as a music of our time.
I will let the end of the book (which is no more relevant than any number of randomly selected passages) speak for itself (without protesting sotto voce that "nondominant" is rather disingenuous!):
Movements have become
citable in all their moments
With my nondominant hand
I want to give
in a minor key
the broadest sense