Reading Aloud: Ben Lerner’s “The Rescue”

I’m not Ben Lerner and he’s not dead, so perhaps I shouldn’t be reading his poem (“The Rescue”, published in the September 21, 2023 issue of the New York Review of Books) … but that’s not true, you know. Yes, I’m reading his poem.

A Performative Introduction

Reading his poem because
There’s something unique about the experience of being read to
something unique about reading out loud.
You’re the one being read to
(But I doubt who will actually listen to all of it)

I’m the one reading out loud. Aloud.

Some Biographical Details

My friend Nazareth Pantaloni reads much more poetry than I do, and I’ve always admired this about him. I know a little about poetry. More than most people. But not really that much.

The First Question About Reading Poetry

How do you read the line endings? This is something I don’t know. Everytime I’ve heard a poetry reading — and I havne’t been to too many — the line endings didn’t punctuate the reading. Breaks in stanzas would. But not line endings.

But it’s also not just about reading out loud in general, as though the reader was indifferent to the object of the reading. In this instance I’ll refer to a Mark Jarman poem: “That’s where things started to happen and I knew it.”

Why Reading “The Rescue” Aloud?

Perhaps it’s because the line endings are one way that the feature I like most about this poem appears. That features is absence (please forgive the Derridean resonance here): words are absent at what seem like important places in the poem.

This feature dovetails pretty well with the line ending question.