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Ben Lerner Map

Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner

Leaving the Atocha Station, Book Cover, Ben Lerner

Leaving the Atocha Station, Book Cover, Ben Lerner

Topekan Ethos, Book Cover, Ben Lerner

Angle Of Yaw, Book Cover, Ben Lerner

The Lichtenberg Figures, Book Cover, Ben Lerner


Ben Lerner was born in 1979 in Topeka, Kansas. He graduated from Topeka High School and went to Brown University where he received a BA in Political Science as well as an MFA in creative writing.

Lerner’s poems have been published in anthologies such as Best American Poetry and Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and traveled in Spain in 2003. His Angle of Yaw was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Lichtenberg Figures won the Hayden Carruth Award, was a Lannan Literary Selection, and was named one of the best poetry books of the year by the Library Journal.

Ben Lerner co-founded the magazine No: a journal of the arts. His novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, was the receipient of many awards and prizes. His novel 10:04 was published by FSG in 2014. He teaches creative writing at Brooklyn College, and won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2015 and became the first poetry editor at Harper's in 2016. His The Hatred of Poetry (FSG 2016) discusses our love/hate relationship to Poetry/poetry.

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  
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Writing Samples  

I had meant to apologize in advance.
I had meant to jettison all dogmatism in theory and all sclerosis in organization.
I had mean to place my hand in a position to receive the sun.
I imagined such a gesture would amount to batter, battery. A cookie

is not the only substance that recieves the shape
of the instrument with which it's cut. The man-child tucks
of flare gun into his sweatpants and sets out
for a bench of great beauty and peacefulness.

Like the girl my neighbors sent to Catholic school, tonight
the moon lies down with any boy who talks of leaving town.
My cowardice may or may not have a concrete economice foundation.
I beat Orlando Duran witha ratchet till he bled from his eye.

I like it when you cut the crust off my sandwiches.
The name of our state flower changes as it dries.

---The Lichtenberg Figures

The first gaming system was the domesticated flame. Contemporary video games
allow you to select the angle from which you view the action, inspiring a rash of high
school massacres. Newer games, with their use of small strokes to simulate reflected light,
are all but unintelligible to older players. We have abstracted airplanes from our
simulators in the hope of manipulating flight as such. Game cheats, special codes that
make your character invincible or rich, alter weather conditions or allow you to bypass a narrative stage, stand in relation to video games as prayer to reality. Children, if pushed,
will attempt to inflict game cheats on the phenomenal world. Enter up, down, up, down,
left, right, left, right, a, b, a, to tear open the sky. Left, left, b, b, to keep warm.

** Angle of Yaw
***Boston Review

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Author Interview


2009 interview from Jacket 37.

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Some reviews for Mean Free Path:

"... [S]ure to be among the best collections published in 2010. The poems are charged with the full force of Lerner's monumental talent, which begins with the finely chiseled line and extends to the architecture of the book entire."

--Justin Taylor, The Poetry foundation

"Lerner creates a system of colliding waves, events, objects, and particles of language set to the measure of his form, which is put in motion every time the book is opened..."

--Jeff Johnson, Fanzine

"The book begins, after the Dedication, with the following line: "I finished the reading and looked up/ Changed in the familiar ways." After my reading (and rereading, and rereading) of Mean Free Path, I felt changed in some unfamiliar ways... A friend told me recently, "Reading Ben Lerner makes me want to write poems." I can't imagine higher praise, and I can't imagine what this endlessly inventive poet will attmept next."

-- Cody Walker, Poetry Northwest

"In Mean Free Path, Lerner... touches on subjects from love and war to impending environmental catastophe. But the book is most fundamentally about communication. Mean Free Path sadly and beautifully reflects a fractured, soundbitten world where channel-surfing is the only permissible mode of transportation..."

-- Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper

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