Monday, October 20, 2008

Who needs profundity?

From my essay about John Ashbery's Flow Chart :

"The best poets have always been more than careerists. Their best lines are more than manifestations of the culte de moi (an expression that is itself half allusion -- to Barrés -- and half Miss Piggy). Poems are not merely fragmented wrecks that litter the ocean floor, but are, as Ashbery appears to acknowledge, profound as well as found sources, party buried but somehow, whatever the depths, still in view -- more like deeply-embedded stepping stones in a river of verse. That they may lose cohesiveness, authority, even some of their meaning, can muddy the waters, but that is part of the essential nature of things."


Andrew Shields said...

I read all of "Flow Chart" twice, and even taught it about ten years ago. And what is left of it in my mind? "Excuse me while I fart." :-)

Okay, that, and the fact that it is truly great fun to read, riffing with stories and wit and jokes and darker emotions and everything that one expects from a "long poem."

Still, I read it twice, and I don't think I'll read the whole thing again ...

Don Share said...

You're excused from reading it anymore, Andrew!! I, too, thought it great fun.

Whatever one thinks of either Ashbery in general or Flow Chart in particular, the amount of polarized (and polarizing) whining about Ashbery is very discouraging. No wonder the Nobel folks turned up their noses at the likes of American poets: our literati must seem like a bunch of gabbling turkeys to the rest of the world.

Andrew Shields said...

One thing I would add is that, when reading Ashbery, I prefer poems that go on for pages (or a whole book). Then the effect of his wide-ranging style is greatest.

the unreliable narrator said...

Es verdad: American writers seem to waste no opportunity to prove ourselves insular and anti-intellectual, and then get all indignantly Miss Piggy about it when confronted.

I think I will always admire you for "gabbling turkeys."