Sunday, 17 May 2015

John Ashbery

John Ashbery – what do I even have to say?
Pulitzer Prize winning poet, who’s ground-breaking work has been a major influence for almost any poet writing in the 20th century. His poems are famously difficult; they often allude a fixed meaning and – as the Poetry Foundation puts it – “challenge [their] readers to discard all presumptions about the aims, themes, and stylistic scaffolding of verse in favour of a literature that reflects upon the limits of language and the volatility of consciousness.”
Loads has been said and written about him, and there could be little left for me to say. Although I have to admit, I particularly like Stephen Koch’s characterisation of Ashbery in the New York Times Book Review who described Ashbery’s voice as
"a hushed, simultaneously incomprehensible and intelligent whisper with a weird pulsating rhythm that fluctuates like a wave between peaks of sharp clarity and watery droughts of obscurity and languor.”
I leave you to explore Ashbery and his work yourselves.

My poetic response this week only uses a few cues from Ashbery’s poem “The Skaters”. The quoted lines (in italics) served as a starting point for my own thoughts in these post-General-Election days in Scotland.

Links: (John Ashbery special)

~ - ~

melting point

starting halfway amid Skaters

on icy surface with bruised knees

I recollect myself


while the rain drops roll down

the metal body

of the mint green bicycle in our living room

my hair is still wet


on a Scottish melting spring day

mid May clouds

crowding the bay window

with the past poster tape stains

holding on

dirty grey transparency as the void

comes clear

the Sunday after the Thursday

after the Friday which will last another 5 years

me just a silly bystander

voiceless immigrant reader

strapped to the sofa seat

while John talks about snowflakes piling

Mild effects are the result.

I see them

microscopic crystal formations floating weightlessly

magnificent symbolic now

misty swirls biting our cheeks in the gale

they come in all kinds of colours

never just the pure white ones

the wind coming up from the south

pushing them against our faces

we try and catch them

mere water on touchdown every time

or after all - ?

in the shade beyond the border

a stubborn pileup

a slippery slope

We are a part of some system, thinks he.

pools on the carpet


a flat screen television conversation loud

location location aspiration

reform reform

I stare motionless

chain reaction

what was the meaning of - again






inreaction … ?

good for business is good for us all certainly

little room for doubt in times like these

in water weather

my wrinkly hands and sodden feet

in this liquid language frantically paddling

against each


life threatening




down to the letter

from s w 1 a

first in the country

x like avalanche

the tide which pulled it all away

I wring them all out now

every sheet with ink running

waters rising

Placed squarely in front of his dilemma.


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