Ben Lerner

Literary Birthday – 4 February – Ben Lerner

Happy Birthday, Ben Lerner, born 4 February 1979.


  1. I could imagine it in a way that felt like remembering.
  2. I will begin to remember our walk in the third person, as if I’d seen it from the Manhattan Bridge, but, at the time of writing, as I lean against the chain-link fence intended to stop jumpers, I am looking back at the totalled city in the second person plural. I know it’s hard to understand / I am with you, and I know how it is.
  3. Art has to offer something other than stylised despair.
  4. If I was a poet, I had become one because poetry, more intensely than any other practice, could not evade its anachronism and marginality and so constituted a kind of acknowledgement of my own preposterousness, admitting my bad faith in good faith, so to speak.
  5. I was a violent, bipolar, compulsive liar. I was a real American.
  6. As I read I experienced what was becoming a familiar sensation: the world was rearranging itself around me while I processed words from a liquid-crystal display.
  7. The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.
  8. I see it, the author quietly exclaims, but then he encounters a problem with his tense. He doesn’t know how to continue the story in the present, at least not in a way that would put the boys to sleep as opposed to enlisting their participation in a kind of game. To his surprise, he feels the onset of panic, cold spreading through him. The particularly precocious author can’t handle the formal complexity of the bedtime story.
  9. I wish all difficult poems were profound.
  10. We relate to reality differently depending on the fictions we tell ourselves about it.
  11. What interests me about fiction is, in part, its flickering edge between realism and where a tear in the fabric of a story lets in some other sort of light.
  12. I have no interest in artists who are purely affirmative, who’ve made a commercialised fetish of the culture’s stupidity.

Ben Lerner is an American poet, novelist, essayist, and critic. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, a finalist for the National Book Award, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04.

Source for Image: The British Library, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 4th February 2015