28+ quotes from Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Quotes from Leaving the Atocha Station

Ben Lerner ·  181 pages

Rating: (7.9K votes)


“I tried hard to imagine my poems or any poems as machines that could make things happen, changing the government, or the economy or even their language, the body or its sensorium, but I could not imagine this, could not even imagine imagining it. And yet when I imagined the total victory of those other things over poetry, when I imagined, with a sinking feeling, a world without even the terrible excuses for poems that kept faith with the virtual possibilities of the medium, without the sort of absurd ritual I'd participated in that evening then I intuited an inestimable loss, a loss not of artworks but of art, and therefore infinite, the total triumph of the actual, and I realized that, in such a world, I would swallow a bottle of white pills.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I could imagine it in a way that felt like remembering”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I was a violent, bipolar, compulsive liar. I was a real American.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I tended to find lines of poetry beautiful only when I encountered them quoted in prose, in the essays my professors had assigned in college, where the line breaks were replaced with slashes, so that what was communicated was less a particular poem than the echo of poetic possibility. Insofar as I was interested in the arts, I was interested in the disconnect between my experience of actual artworks and the claims made on their behalf; the closest I'd come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I told the waiter I was looking for a hotel whose name I didn't know on a street whose name I didn't know and could he help me; we both laughed and he said: Aren't we all.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“Happy were the ages when the starry sky was the map of all possible paths, ages of such perfect social integration that no drug was required to link the hero to the whole.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“because the cigarette or spliff was an indispensable technology, a substitute for speech in social situations, a way to occupy the mouth and hands when alone, a deep breathing technique that rendered exhalation material, a way to measure and/or pass the time. More important than the easily satisfiable addiction, what the little cylinders provided me was a prefabricated motivation and transition, a way to approach or depart from a group of people or a topic, enter or exit a room, conjoin or punctuate a sentence. The hardest part of quitting would be the loss of narrative function; it would be like removing telephones or newspapers from the movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age; there would be no possible link between scenes, no way to circulate information or close distance, and when I imagined quitting smoking, I imagined “settling down,” not because I associated quitting with a more mature self-care, but because I couldn’t imagine moving through an array of social spaces without the cigarette as bridge or exit strategy.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“Y si nunca nos acostábamos ni "desarrollábamos" nuestra relación, me iría de España con esa preciosa posibilidad intacta, y en el recuerdo siempre podría reflexionar sobre la relación que podría haber mantenido a la favorecedora luz del subjuntivo.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“But my research had taught me that the tissue of contradictions that was my personality was itself, at best, a poem, where “poem” is understood as referring to a failure of language to be equal to the possibilities it figures; only then could my fraudulence be a project and not merely a pathology; only then could my distance from myself be redescribed as critical, aesthetic, as opposed to a side effect of what experts might call my substance problem, felicitous phrase, the origins of which lay not in my desire to evade reality, but in my desire to have a chemical excuse for reality’s unavailability.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“If I was a poet, I had become one because poetry, more intensely than any other practice, could not evade its anachronism and marginality and so constituted a kind of acknowledgment of my own preposterousness, admitting my bad faith in good faith, so to speak.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I believe she imbued my body thus, finding every touch enhanced by ambiguity of intention, as if it too required translation, and so each touch branched out, became a variety of touches.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“When I spoke to her in Spanish I was not translating, I was not thinking my thoughts in English first, but I was nevertheless outside the language I was speaking, building simple sentences with the blocks I’d memorized, not communicating through a fluid medium.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“The language of poetry is the exact opposite of the language of mass media,” I said, meaninglessly.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“When she reached me she asked gently if I were O.K., what was bothering me. Fine, nothing, I said, but in a way I hoped confirmed incommunicable depths had opened up inside me.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than that I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“My experience of my body was her experience once removed, which meant my body was dissolved, and that’s all I’d ever really wanted from my body, such as it was.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“[A] "poem" is understood as [something] referring to a failure of language to be equal to the possibilities it figures”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I had the endless day, months and months of endless days, and yet my return date bounded this sense of boundlessness, kept it from becoming threatening.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“It was worse than having a sinking feeling; I was a sinking feeling, an unplayable adagio for strings; internal distances expanded and collapsed when I breathed.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I imagined the passengers could see me, imagined I was a passenger that could see me looking up at myself looking down.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“...there were eighty or so people gathered to listen to this utter shit as though it were their daily language passing through the crucible of the human sprint and emerging purified, redeemed.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“...no matter what any poet did, the poems would constitute screens on which readers could project their own desperate belief in the possibility of poetic experience, whatever that might be, or afford them the opportunity to mourn its impossibility.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“I could displace the mystery of my speech onto writing, the latter perhaps recharging the former”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“The voices and laughter and birds and wind and traffic combined and separated gently.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“And if we never slept together or otherwise 'realized' our relationship, I would leave Spain with this gorgeous possibility intact, and in my memory could always ponder the relationship I might have had in the flattering light of the subjunctive.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“But this was true only for the duration of one of these seemingly durationless periods; figure and ground could be reversed, and when one was in the midst of some new intensity, kiss or concussion, one was suddenly composed exclusively of such moments, burning always with this hard, gemlike flame.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“Who wasn't squatting in one of the handful of prefabricated subject positions proffered by capital or whatever you wanted to call it, lying every time she said "I"; who wasn't a bit player in a looped infomercial for the damaged life?”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


“Her breath smelled terrible and I told myself to commit that fact to memory, to remember it the next time I was intimidated by her unwavering grace.”
― Ben Lerner, quote from Leaving the Atocha Station


About the author

Ben Lerner
Born place: in Topeka, The United States
Born date February 4, 1979
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