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Lichtenberg Figures, The
Ben Lerner
$14.00 paperback
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Lichtenberg Figures, The
Ben Lerner


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The Lichtenberg Figures - Ben Lerner

The Lichtenberg Figures is an unconventional sonnet sequence that interrogates the relationship between language and memory, violence and form. The book takes its title from the recurrent electrical patterns discovered by the great aphorist and scientist G.C. Lichtenberg. 'Lichtenberg Figures' are lovely, fern-like shapes that have been known to appear on (and quickly fade from) the bodies of people struck by lightning. Playful and elegiac in shifts, the poems mimic and explore the complex juxtapositions of contemporary culture through permutation, repetition and collage. The vocabulary of academic theory collides with American slang, the idiom of the Old Testament meets the jargon of the internet, and clichés are cracked open and made new, made strange. Throughout the course of the book, these technical experiments merge with aphoristic lightning flashes of autobiography, intellection, comedy, fury, and critique, thereby producing an eclectic, electric sensibility that is sometimes in command, and sometimes commanded by, the power of speech.

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2003 Hayden Carruth Award

 Library Journal's "Best Poetry of 2004" 

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For Lichtenberg Figures, The, Ben Lerner

"[A] funny, nervy volume."—The New York Times Book Review

"Charged with wit and abstraction... An impressive debut."—Library Journal

"Like the intricate patterns of 'captured lightning' to which the book's title refers, the poems in Ben Lerner's The Lichtenberg Figures make their mark in bursts of invention and surprise. The languages of critical theory and television collide, often with titillating and telling results: startling, gnomic ingots are scattered throughout; clichés are ripped apart and reassembled fresh and strange. While each of the poems in the book-length sequence is composed of 14 lines, the governing unit is less the sonnet than the sentence, and Lerner spring-loads one after another in order to deliver his splendidly calibrated punch... This debut is sharp, ambitious and impressive."—Boston Review

"Each [Lerner] sonnet [is] a nuclear explosion in a thimble."—New Orleans Gambit Weekly, Top 10 Books of 2004

"One of poetry's achievements, if it's lucky, is to forge connections among neurons by creating new pathways, memorable patterns, and compelling figures. The Lichtenberg Figures is lucky. And skillful. And, especially for a first volume, brilliant in its flashes."—Rain Taxi

"We have here a twenty-four-year-old poet whose ludic genius is unintimidated by the ludicrous. He romps in the English language, sometimes shooting down cliché after cliché through syllepsis such as we haven't seen since Alexander Pope."—Beloit Poetry Journal

"The Lichtenberg Figures, Ben Lerner's first book, is a series of brilliantly contrived poetic crash tests... The Lichtenberg Figures is at once highly literary and highly personal, formally subtle and shockingly frank. Dark, hilarious, obsceneit is a reading experience nearly impossible to forget. And the book's exploration of the very possibility of forgetting is one of its notable accomplishments... The most memorable part of this audacious and accomplished first book might be its exploration of memory itself."New Orleans Review

"Lerner captures the surreality of modern culture better than anyone... The beauty of language and image reminds us why we crave this vision."—Pleiades

"Ben Lerner's brilliance has a toothy gleam. Indeed that’s the only reason to read this book. That, and... that it’s also very funny... This brash young voice [spins] literary talk back on itself, spoofing it all to smithereens.”Poetry Flash

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