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I found Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry to be a very interesting exploration into the limitations of an art medium — in this case, poetry. The idea that we view words as so essential to our humanity coupled with the idea that words cannot always accurately express our conceptions is a frustrating dichotomy. It also brings to light the idea that as human beings we feel that our humanity (our ideas and thoughts and feelings) is reliant on the extent to which others recognize that we have it. It’s very well to say “I think, therefore I am,” but Lerner seems to be saying that as true as that may be, thinking, feeling, and understanding something are not enough. We affirm our existence only when we are able to express ourselves in some way. Poetry as an art that attempts to express thoughts, feelings, ideas, circumstances, etc. — along with a certain idea of something that could not be expressed through just plain words but needs a texture and a rhythm to truly be expressive of the conception of it — is an art bound to the frustrating tension between trying to say what can’t be said and only being able to say what can be said. I think he is saying that every time you write a poem you must face the idea that there is something the words do not understand, something that does not translate, and that is a part of you, or a part of the world, that you can never feel the satisfaction of proving its existence through language.

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