By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

Ben Lerner's The Hatred of Poetry is an interesting book with a catchy title. It is a conundrum book, too, not by title alone but because of what Lerner is tackling as a poet and as a critical thinker/essayist.

Who doesn't remember poet Marianne Moore's famous line about poetry: "I, too,
dislike it."

Lerner starts out with this as a kind of premise ... and by asking the question, why is it so. What is there about poetry that stops us in our tracks? It isn't the precious beauty
The Hatred of Poetry
angle, it's the fact that most of us don't read poetry any more. And yet ... Bob Dylan's recent Nobel Prize is proof that while we don't read poetry so much, we do listen to it. Who would argue that Dylan is not a poet? Few could disagree that his poetry put to song also reads wonderfully on the page: the words sing however you lay them down – on paper or on musical notes.

But what happened to printed Poetry (yes, with a capital P) that it should languish so terribly in our time? Was it captured and imprisoned by the universities? Was it destroyed in countless high schools across the land? Was it killed by the Testing Bureaus? Or is it just that Plato started the whole thing, the hating of poetry, because he believed it would corrupt and mislead the youth of his time?

Who knows? Who cares? Well, Ben Lerner does and he makes a lovely and profound
Gerald Hausman
case in this clever little book of his. And he covers a lot of sacred ground. Genuine poetry, he contends, creates a place for possibility. He ends his book length essay with the fact "it might come to resemble love."  

Those of us who love poetry, and always have, might smile at this, for poetry – and here I am speaking for myself – IS love. The act of writing it, seeing it written, and feeling it within is the very essence of being in love with life. Thanks, Ben.


John Nizalowski's East of Kayenta is a case in point. It is the very essence of the Southwest in tight, uncluttered verse that could be spoken in a bar, as poet Lew Welch once suggested, and the man sitting next to you would imagine you were just talking to him. Nizalowski's writing is spare, beautiful, deeply felt language that never fails or falls to the superficial. Rather, the poet digs under the surface of things and leads you
East of Kayenta
along on desert paths of the imagination, through the halls of literature, and the unlikely haunts of Jack Kerouac's cat. He lets you hear jazz on the streets of San Francisco and he lets you smell black coffee while you traverse wide deep rivers of thought. In his poem "Ornette's Blues", the poet says:

The blues detonated
inside out. Yes. The
galaxy charted, sung,
spun into silver and
hot phosphorous.

Nizalowski sings of crickets in the deep grass, sirens, fires, crimes, suicides and a "freight train rumble receding into/the long Colorado desert night." Whatever he touches upon and it is mostly a matter of myth and travelogue, vision and music, he does so elegantly, simply elegantly. Few have written as wisely about the desert and its hold on those who personally let go within the empty heart of that landscape. Where the sand ends, the music begins. Where the music begins the whirling sand is pure poetry.

(Gerald Hausman photo credit: Mariah Fox)
Gerald Hausman
Gerald Hausman at Stay Thirsty Publishing


Gerald Hausman is the author of Not Since Mark Twain and 
a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.