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Benjamin S. Lerner (born February 4, 1979[1]) is an American poet, novelist, essayist, and critic. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, a finalist for the National Book Award, a Howard Foundation Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and he is currently a MacArthur Fellow. In 2011 he won the "Preis der Stadt Münster für internationale Poesie", making him the first American to receive this honor.[2] Lerner teaches at Brooklyn College, where he was named a Distinguished Professor of English in 2016.[3]

Ben Lerner
Lerner in 2013
Lerner in 2013
Born (1979-02-04) February 4, 1979 (age 40)
Topeka, Kansas
NationalityUnited States
Alma materBrown University
GenrePoetry, novels, essays
Notable awardsGuggenheim Fellowship;
Believer Book Award;
MacArthur Fellowship

Life and workEdit

Lerner was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, which figures in each of his books of poetry. He is a 1997 graduate of Topeka High School, where he participated in debate and forensics, winning the 1997 National Forensic League National Tournament in International Extemporaneous Speaking.[4] At Brown University he studied with poet C. D. Wright and earned a B.A. in political theory and an MFA in poetry.[5]

Lerner was awarded the Hayden Carruth prize for his cycle of 52 sonnets, The Lichtenberg Figures.[6] In 2004 Library Journal named it one of the year's 12 best books of poetry.

In 2003 Lerner traveled on a Fulbright Scholarship to Madrid, Spain, where he wrote his second book of poetry, Angle of Yaw, which was published in 2006. It was named a finalist for the National Book Award. His third poetry collection, Mean Free Path, was published in 2010.[7]

Lerner's first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, published in 2011,[8] won the Believer Book Award[9] and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for first fiction and the New York Public Library's Young Lions prize. Writing in The Guardian, Geoff Dyer called it "a work so luminously original in style and form as to seem like a premonition, a comet from the future."[10] Excerpts of Lerner's second novel, 10:04, won the Terry Southern Prize from The Paris Review.[11] Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Maggie Nelson called 10:04 a "near perfect piece of literature."[12] Lerner's 2019 novel, The Topeka School, was acclaimed in The New York Times Book Review as “a high-water mark in recent American fiction.”[13] Lerner’s essays, art criticism, and literary criticism have appeared in Art in America, boundary 2, Frieze, Harper's, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Yorker, among other publications.[14]

In 2008 Lerner began editing poetry for Critical Quarterly, a British scholarly publication.[15] In 2016 he became the first poetry editor at Harper's.[16] He has taught at California College of the Arts and the University of Pittsburgh, and in 2010 joined the faculty of the MFA program at Brooklyn College.[17]

In 2016 Lerner became a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities.[18] He received a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship.[19]

Lerner's mother is the psychologist Harriet Lerner.[20]

Lerner is a judge for the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize.



  • The Lichtenberg figures. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press. 2004.
  • Angle of Yaw. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press. 2006. ISBN 9781556592461.
  • Mean Free Path. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press. 2010. ISBN 9781619320741.
  • No Art. 2016. Collection of previous three volumes.


Short fictionEdit

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
Ross Perot and China 2019 Lerner, Ben (May 27, 2019). "Ross Perot and China". The New Yorker. 95 (14): 58–62.


The Hatred of Poetry. FSG Originals, 2016.

Collaborations with artistsEdit

  • Blossom. Mack Books, 2015. With Thomas Demand.
  • The Polish Rider. Mack Books, 2018. With Anna Ostoya.
  • The Snows of Venice. Spector Books, 2018. With Alexander Kluge



  1. ^ Ben Lerner in Lyrikline
  2. ^ a b "Stadt Münster: Kulturamt – Lyrikertreffen". Archived from the original on 17 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  3. ^ "CUNY Trustees Approve New Labor Contracts – CUNY Newswire". Archived from the original on 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  4. ^ Blankenship, Bill (March 9, 2005). "Young poet to read works at Washburn". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  5. ^ Lerner, Ben (January 14, 2016). "Postscript: C.D. Wright, 1949-2016". The New Yorker.
  6. ^ The Paris Review. "Ben Lerner's First Time". The Paris Review. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  7. ^ "Mean Free Path". Copper Canyon Press. Retrieved 2019-10-09. "In physics, the 'mean free path' of a particle is the average distance it travels before colliding with another particle. The poems in Mean Free Path are full of discrete collisions—stutters, repetitions, fragmentations, recombinations—that track how language breaks up or changes course under the emotional pressure of the utterance."
  8. ^ "Ben Lerner". Narrative Magazine. 2008-12-15. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  9. ^ a b "Ben Lerner Wins the Believer Book Award". Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  10. ^ Dyer, Geoff (2012-07-05). "Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner – review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2016-11-21. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  11. ^ a b The Paris Review (2014-03-12). "Emma Cline Wins Plimpton Prize; Ben Lerner Wins Terry Southern Prize". The Paris Review. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  12. ^ Nelson, Maggie (August 24, 2014). "Slipping the Surly Bonds of Earth: On Ben Lerner's Latest". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  13. ^ Hallberg, Garth Risk (2019-10-03). "Ben Lerner's 'The Topeka School' Revisits the Debates of the '90s". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  14. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2013-04-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Gavin, Alice (2008-04-16). "The 'angle of immunity': face and façade in Beckett's Film – GAVIN – 2008 – Critical Quarterly – Wiley Online Library". Critical Quarterly. 50 (3): 77–89. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8705.2008.00833.x.
  16. ^ "The Drums of Marrakesh". Harper's Magazine. March 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-05-02. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  17. ^ "Brooklyn College English Department – MFA Faculty". Archived from the original on 2011-09-03. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  18. ^ "Meet the New Fellows of 2016".
  19. ^ "Ben Lerner — MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  20. ^ Link (2006-12-05). "Silliman's Blog". Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  21. ^ "FSG's Favorite Books of 2013". Work in Progress. 2013-12-19. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  22. ^ Short stories unless otherwise noted.
  23. ^ [1] Archived March 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Acclaimed young poet Ben Lerner relocates to Pittsburgh. – Books – Book Reviews & Features – Pittsburgh City Paper". Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  25. ^ "National Book Award 2006". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  26. ^ "Poetry Flash:NCBRAwards". Poetry Flash. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13.
  27. ^ "New Fellows". Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  28. ^ "Book Prizes – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2017-06-10. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  29. ^ "The New York Public Library's 2012 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists Announced". Flavorwire. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2012-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Finalist for the 2012 PEN/Bingham Award". Star Tribune.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2013-07-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Folio Prize shortlist includes Ben Lerner, Colm Toibin, Ali Smith". Archived from the original on 2016-11-27. Retrieved 2014-11-26.

External linksEdit