Didactic Elegy — Ben Lerner


Events extraneous to the work, however, can unfix the meaning of its figures,
thereby recharging it negatively. For example,
if airplanes crash into towers and those towers collapse
there is an ensuing reassignation of value.
Those works of art enduringly susceptible to radical revaluations are masterpieces.
The phrase ‘unfinished masterpiece’ is redundant.

Now the critic feels a new anxiety in the presence of the drawing.
Anxiety here is tragic; it inspires a feeling of irrelevance.
The critic experiences irrelevance as a loss of capital.

To the critic, the black line has become simply a black line.
What was once a gesture of negativity, has lost its capacity to refer
to the difficulties inherent in reference.
Can this process be made the subject of a poem?

but a poem may prefigure its own irrelevance,
thereby staying relevant
despite the transpiration of extraneous events.

This poem will lose its relevance if and when there is a significant resurgence
of confidence in the function of the artwork.
If artworks are no longer required to account for their own status,
this poem’s figures will then be fixed and meaningless.

But meaninglessness, when accepted, can be beautiful
in the way the way the Greeks were beautiful
when they accepted death.
Only in this sense can a poem be heroic.
After the towers collapsed


Typo — Issue Two