Books in Brief: The Lichtenberg Figures by Ben Lerner

The stars will be adjusted for inflation
so that the dead can continue living
in the manner to which they've grown accustomed.

p. 18

Perhaps what remains of innovation
is a conservatism at peace with contradiction.

as the sky transgresses its frame
but obeys the museum.

p. 22

Ben Lerner's The Lichtenberg Figures is a bit of a tough book of poetry. It's a sonnet sequence ostensibly about growing up in the midwest, but it's frustrated, as many of us were in the early 2000s, with the way the world seemed to work. Reading it now made me almost nostalgic for a kind of frustration that now seems so okay, so naïve, so less harmful to the fundaments of society, rather than to the bodies of people across the world. It's not funny in the way Patricia Lockwood can be, nor is it particularly melancholy. It's more abstract than that, more systematic. I enjoyed it, and I'll need to come back to it and his newer The Hatred of Poetry.

Jordan T. Thevenow-Harrison