from Ben Lerner’s “Leaving the Atocha Station”

“Reading poetry, if reading is even the word, was something else entirely. Poetry actively repelled my attention, it was opaque and thingly and refused to absorb me; its articles and conjunctions and prepositions failed to dissolve into a feeling and a speed; you could fall into the spaces between words as you tried to link them up; and yet by refusing to absorb me the poem held out the possibility of a higher form of absorption of which I was unworthy, a profound experience unavailable from within the damaged life, and so the poem became a figure for its outside. It was much easier for me to read a poem in Spanish than Spanish prose because all the unknowing and hesitation and failure involved in the attempt to experience the poem was familiar, it was what invested any poem with a negative power, its failure to move me moved me.”


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