DID YOU KNOW: Artistic Director Matt Slaybaugh has every issue of The Believer magazine. He’s been a subscriber since issue #9, from December 2003. Says Matt, “Suffice to say, I get a lot of education and ideas from The Believer.”
Poet/Novelist Ben Lerner, author of “Leaving the Atocha Station,” was interviewed by Tao Lin for The Believer magazine upon the release of his novel. Here’s a choice cut:
BLVR: After three books of poetry, you’ve written a novel whose protagonist—Adam Gordon, a young American on a one-year poetry fellowship to Spain—views himself as a fraud on many levels. He considers, even, at one point, that maybe only his fraudulence is fraudulent. Do you think of your novel as arguing for the existence of poetry or exposing its fraudulence? Or something else?
BL: I think the novel both celebrates and savages poetry—or you might say that the novel celebrates poetry but savages poems. Early on Adam says something about poetry quoted in prose. Let me find the passage:
“I tended to find lines of poetry beautiful only when I encountered them quoted in prose, in the essays my professors had assigned in college, where the line breaks were replaced with slashes, so that what was communicated was less a particular poem than the echo of poetic possibility.”
I don’t think this is just an admission that he’s not interested in poetry, or a confession of fraudulence. He does find lines of poetry beautiful, but what he tends to find beautiful is an abstract potential that’s betrayed by actual poems. I can sympathize with this kind of negativity. It captures something about why poetry retains its power in the face of so many failed poems. You’re a poet; don’t you hate most poems?
Please do read the entire, fascinating interview here: http://www.believermag.com/exclusives/?read=interview_lerner