I thought considerably about this pairing, and it might be one of my favorites.
"Many more people agree they hate poetry than can agree with poetry is," writes Ben Lerner in this slim little volume that explores why, for millennia, people, even poets themselves like Lerner have been actively hating poetry even as its held as one of our highest art forms—"an art hated from without and within." He traces the form's misunderstandings from Caedmon, the first ancient poet, to today, where it's poorly taught in schools, almost ensuring an early dislike. As I recently got into poetry after also being one of those people who "didn't get it," in part because I hated the way it was taught in my high school English classes, I really loved the wry, articulate arguments in this book. Lerner explores everything from to Dante and his infernal inferno; to unpacking the seepage of contemporary poetry into things like an inauguration; to Plato’s fear of “excessive emotions” poetry might inspire. The book is only 86 pages and could be read in one sitting—indeed, it’s written as a single stream, no chapters or breaks, intent on being read that way—and functions almost like a long lecture, but one that you actually want to hear and learn from. My particular favorite is around pages 11-14, when he discusses the tendency of non-poets to simultaneously revere the art of poetry and hold it suspect, and to marvel that anyone is a poet while feeling guilty that they don’t participate in poetry;
“There is one underlying reason why poetry is so often met with contempt rather than mere indifference and why it is periodically denounced as oppose to simply dismissed: Most of us carry at least a weak sense of a correlation between poetry and human possibility that cannot be realized by poems. The poet, by his very claim to be a make of poems, is therefor both an embarrassment and an accusation.”
Reading this book, I thought, what is a misunderstood wine? One people think they hate. The answer was easy: Pinot Grigio. Maligned as the wine of suburban housewives who drink it by the box, in oversized glasses, cheap and sweet and mass-produced, the stigma against the actually delightful Italian white wine is real—for years, I'd agree to drink almost anything but Pinot Grigio. But the Pinot grape, one of the Noble Grapes, deserves better. I set about trying to find a Pinot Grigio that would "convince people who think they hate it that it's actually good," as I articulated to many wine sellers. Though all loved the question, I stumped quite a few of them—"we just don't really sell a lot of Italian Pinot Grigio" was their somewhat embarrassed response. But then, I found this bottle at Discovery Wines in the East Village. Imported by one of my faves, Rosenthal Wine Merchants, Bruno Verdi's PG is a wine that truly surprised me. When I poured it, a beautiful scent of ripe peaches rose from the glass, but upon taste, it was full and tangy, with green apple, lime, and even honey. This was not my mother's Pinot Grigio. It's like everything you think of when you think of the worlds "Italian white wine"—round and positively luscious, like late afternoon sun on a Tuscany hillside. I could drink this all day. And after tasting it, you'll never say "I hate Pinot Grigio" again.