The Ben Lerner Poems by Devin Becker

Devin Becker has given poet-novelist Ben Lerner a lot of thought. Willow Springs published four of Becker’s poems on Lerner, author of Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, in Issue 76.  “We are the same age,” he says, explaining the inspiration to write about him in his recent Willow Springs profile. “We both grew up in the Midwest—Lerner in Kansas; me in Indiana. We both went to well-known schools out east for college. We both wanted to be poets, writers… I remember reading his first book, The Lichtenberg Figures, and being blown away (a response that Lerner has managed to garner from me with each subsequent book as well). So not only did he achieve this success, he established early on that he was on that path.”

“And so,” he continues, “I have had a somewhat complicated relationship in my head with Ben Lerner ever since I first encountered his work, doubly complicated by my own (possibly false and most definitely contrived-to-make-these-poems) belief that we share the similarly bleak cultural heritage of growing up in the pre-internet, 1990s Midwestern United States during the rise of the chain restaurant and big box store. And I call this upbringing bleak, but… at the same time there was something wonderful about what that type of experience does to someone, which is also what the poems explore, particularly the power of male friendships in that context. And more generally, I also like the way ‘Ben’ sounds, as it is repeated throughout these; I feel like it establishes a type of theme, like the tolling of a bell.”

Outlining his vision for further poems on the theme of Ben Lerner, Becker says, “My big dream for these and other Ben Lerner poems I’ve written is to make them into a chapbook and enter that into a contest being judged by Ben Lerner so that the book would be called, if it won the contest, something like: Ben Lerner, Ben Lerner, Ben Lerner, and Other Poems, selected by Ben Lerner, and then of course Lerner would have a blurb on the back as well. I just think that would be really funny.”

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