Didactic Elegy — Ben Lerner


Towers collapse didactically.
When a tower collapses in practice it also collapses in theory.
Brief dynamic events then carry meanings
that demand memorials,
vertical memorials at peace with negativity.

Should we memorialize the towers or the towers’ collapse?
Can any memorial improve on the elegance of absence?
Or perhaps, in memoriam, we should destroy something else.

I think that we should draw a bold, black line across an otherwise white field
and keep discussion of its meaning to a minimum.
If we can close the event to further interpretation
we can keep the collapse from becoming a masterpiece.

The key is to intend as little as possible in the act of memorialization.
By intending as little as possible we refuse to assign value where there is none.
Violence is not yet modern; it fails to acknowledge the limitations of its medium.
When violence is aware of its mediacy and loses its object
it will begin to resemble love.
Love is negative because it dissolves
all particulars into an experience of form.
Refusing to assign meaning to an event is to interpret it lovingly.

The meaninglessness of the drawing is therefore meaningful
and the failure to seek out value is heroic.
Is this all that remains of poetry?

Ignorance that sees itself is elegy.

Ben Lerner is originally from Topeka, Kansas. His first book, The Lichtenberg Figures, will be published by Copper Canyon in the fall of 2004. He co-edits No: a journal of the arts. With the help of of a Fulbright Grant, he's currently living in Madrid.

Typo — Issue Two