Poetry & Words

The poet feels the dull memory of other knowledge of the tongue and can’t reproduce it. She has to use the words there are for such things as have names — language is the fallen medium, built of worn material — but what she wants from an act of reference exceeds what any amalgam of communicable content can actually do. She wants to make moonlight felt, not speak again the name of the moon. Actual terms, whatever their number and glamour, are always too few and too many, always wrong. Poems become the tokens of unrealized desire. Poetry is the name for what poems never became.

. . .

Poetry, then, implies a vexed ground where profound ambitions are joined to inadequate means of realization. This, in capsule form, accounts for both the persistent aura and disappointment of the art.

Brandon Kreitler, “Like a Poem: On Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 22 July 2016.

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