In his bold second book, Ben Lerner molds philosophical insight, political outrage, and personal experience into a devastating critique of mass society. Angle of Yaw investigates the fate of public space and public speech and how the technologies of viewing—aerial photography in particular—feed our culture an image of itself. And it’s a spectacular view. Haunted by our current “war on terror,” much of the book was written while Lerner was living in Madrid (at the time of the Atocha bombings and their political aftermath), as the author steeped himself in the history of Franco and fascism. Angle of Yaw shows Ben Lerner to be one of our most intriguing and least predictable poets.
The good and the evil, the beautiful and ugly…
The good and the evil, the beautiful and ugly, have been assumed under the rubric of the interesting. Non sequitur rendered lyric by a retrospective act of will. Tongue worries tooth. Repetition worries referent. Non sequitur rendered will by a retrospective act of lyric.
“The poems in Angle of Yaw compact layers of thought into a language of emergency. The juxtapositions are as striking as they are in commercial media except the upshot is to exacerbate instead of conceal differences. The words are not easy on the ear, but the pressure to listen is unmistakable. The sights are not welcome to the eye, as it is our ‘radical emotional incapacitation’ being shown. Violence absorbs the background. No offhanded commentary, no prophesies, no reassurances are given here. Instead, a sane voice orbiting the failed authority of a culture. Instead, the radiant sanity of dissent.” —Judges’ citation, National Book Award, 2006
“Employing the language of aphorism, advertising, parable, personal essay, political tirade, journalism and journal, the collage-like poems of Lerner’s second collection express the ennui of American life in an era when even war feels like a television event. Two sequences of untitled prose poems weave public and private discourse, yielding often absurd yet frighteningly accurate observations… this collection places Lerner among the most promising young poets now writing.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Lerner’s] prose poems can dazzle; they achieve reciprocity between theory and poetry, enlisting and rewarding a reader who wants a crack at critiquing our cultural codes.” —Book Forum
“Lerner’s second book, Angle of Yaw, is a stunner… I have spent a good week, a very good week, re-reading and mining this remarkable volume, but I… don’t expect to exhaust its riches.” —Beloit Poetry Journal
“Lerner’s free verse flows easily from a personally logical structure into publicly proclaimed metaphysic. Words become vehicles to launch the reader into an alternate consciousness… The modern world provides Lerner with countless opportunities to search out mankind’s psyche with the clinical scalpel of prose poetry.” —Home News Tribune