Ben Lerner on W.S. Merwin January 28, 2010 – Tags: , ,

Ben Lerner is the author of two collections of poetry The Lichtenberg Figures, which won the 2003 Hayden Carruth Award, and Angle of Yaw, which was finalist for the National Book Award. Both are published by Copper Canyon Press. His third book, Mean Free Path, also published by CCP, is due to be released any day now. Publishers Weekly pronounced that Lerner is “among the most promising young poets now writing.”Lerner teaches in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.

On February 4 poet Lerner will take part in the W.S. Merwin & Friends reading to benefit Copper Canyon Press. In celebration of the event Book Patrol has asked each of the poets reading with Merwin to ruminate a bit on Merwin and to share their thoughts.

Ben Lerner:

In the early sixties, W.S. Merwin shifted from a virtuosic deployment of traditional forms (the roundels, ballads, sonnets of A Mask for Janus) to singular, unpunctuated lyrics that almost hover above the page, that capture the tremble, the tremor, even the timbre of the voice. Merwin never altogether abandons the pleasures and challenges of traditional forms, but reading him book to book I began to see the advent of felt silences and spoken rhythms and fragmentation in his work, to watch what he called the “rational protocol of written language” breaking up under the pressures of the utterance. The power of his fluid and plainspoken recent collections derives in part from the sense that this directness has been wrested from the silence, that he has restored his sentences word by word: “it is the late poems / that are made of words / that have come the whole way / they have been there.” Even more than any particular poem, more than any particular volume, what I admire in Merwin is his formal restlessness, the beautiful movement not only within but also across his magnificent books.


Here’s an interview with Lerner at Jacket Magazine. It was conducted soon after his first book was published.

Previously on Book Patrol:
W.S. Merwin & Friends: Four Poets Share the Stage and Their Thoughts

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