Tag: john ashbery

An interview with John Ashbery



Claude Peck: Why has Rimbaud appealed, over the years, to various music icons, from Jim Morrison to Patti Smith?

John Ashbery: Bob Dylan, I think, also. Rimbaud has always appealed to misfits and delinquents, who are very often poets. Poets are very often of those persuasions.

Misfits and delinquents. Love it.


John Ashbery, from “The New Spirit”


But the light continues to grow, the eternal disarray of sunrise, and one can now distinguish certain shapes such as haystacks and a clocktower. So it was true, everything was holding its breath because a surprise was on the way. It has already installed itself and begin to give orders: workmen are struggling to raise the main pole that supports the tent while over there others are watering the elephants, dressing down the horses; one is pretending to box with a tame bear. Everything is being lifted or locked into place all over the vast plain, without fuss or worry it slowly nears completion thanks to exceptional teamwork on the part of the crew of roustabouts and saltimbanques whose job this was anyway, and whose ardor need never have excited any jealousy on your part: they are being paid, after all. And one moves closer, drawn first by the aura of the spectacle, to come to examine the merit of its individual parts so as to enjoy even more connecting them up to the whole.

John Ashbery, “Variant”


Sometimes a word will start it, like
Hands and feet, sun and gloves. The way
Is fraught with danger, you say, and I
Notice the word “fraught” as you are telling
Me about huge secret valleys some distance from
The mired fighting – “but always, lightly wooded
As they are, more deeply involved with the outcome
That will someday paste a black, bleeding label
In the sky, but until then
The echo, flowering freely in corridors, alleys,
And tame, surprised places far from anywhere,
Will be automatically locked out – vox
– do you see? End of tomorrow.
Don’t try to start the car or look deeper
Into the eternal wimpling of the sky: luster
On luster, transparency floated onto the topmost layer
Until the whole thing overflows like a silver
Wedding cake or Christmas tree, in a cascade of tears.”

* * *

Whew! I’m exhausted reading that. Don’t ask me what it means just yet but man this thing is chock full of some incredible language. “Fraught,” of course, but also “vox clamans” – the voice of one crying out (how beautiful!), “wimpling,” “luster on luster,” “cascade.” This is poetry right here.

John Ashbery, “Some Trees”


These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were still a performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.