Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
Having kicked off his career with a book of poetry, it’s not surprising that Ben Lerner is interested in the late Johns Hopkins professor Allen Grossman, who theorized that people dislike poetry because poems are — by definition — failures. In a piece for the LRB, he runs through the implications of Grossman’s theory, touching on poets as disparate as Shakespeare and William McGonagall. Pair with Kate Angus on why Americans don’t buy poetry books.