Sunday, January 03, 2010

John Ashbery - Planisphere's brevity

One of the things I’m really enjoying about John Ashbery’s new book, Planisphere, is the brevity of many of the poems, both in overall length and line length. This allows the poems to play with the idea of concision at the same time they continue to apply the breadth of tone and occurrence typical of Ashbery’s work (which is interesting also when considering the overall length of the book - 143 pages). Here are a few nice examples.


Parents raising their voices and others
long to join the pilgrim’s downward trek,
if only to see nothing at the end of the gorge.

The mayor too was languid,
some kind of monsieur,
failing to grasp the humor in the kiddies’ spree.

And truth just kind of sails overhead
like a turkey vulture, on parenthetical wing,
empty as a cupboard.

Interrupt me (then)
with semi-elaborate everything,
spores left by a cloud seizure.
The block of flats will find then forget us.


or even undershirt, zinging
on the grass. The happiest place in the world.
Why we could have tryouts then.
Those who made it got to be seen
a last time, like the fourth declension
where everything ended in u,
a relatively neglected vowel. Hats were blissful
then, the margins
a bit off.

Who will take a deeper interest
once these flowers have been gathered
and bound, perhaps for later reference?
Who will notice us then
as we were noticed once?

The fire is coming.
It says to wait.


I remember I remember
the word “shovel.”
A very young person
—their child—called.
Was it right to remember
all the time? I am
sailing like a sheet in a play.
Others are there.
A dish of scrambled eggs
calls out of a dream.
We intuit the sill as “alarm.”
Nuthatches covet the sky’s


At 1/04/2010 10:02 AM, Blogger Colin Sheldon said...

I like this new hyphenated version of Ashbery's name. "John Ashbery-Planisphere" has a certain, shall we say, gravitas.

At 1/04/2010 12:45 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

As a courtesy to your readers, John, you could have at least had these translated into English.

At 1/09/2010 8:43 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


What, and deprive them of the pleasure? I refuse to take all the fun out of life.

At 1/09/2010 8:52 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Actually, OK I went to the Yahoo translation page and tried. Here you go. Sorry it's in prose, butyou know how hard translation is:


Parents who raise their voices and of others from top to bottom to enclose long time the trip of the pilgrim, if not to only see anything at the extremity of the throat. The mayor was so the languid, certain class of Mr., not to take hold of the humor in the celebration of the children. And the truth sails a little exactly arrives like a turkey vulture, on the wing between parentheses, drains like a compartment. They stop - me (soon) with semi-refined everything, spores left by a cloud introduction. The block of apartments will find then to forget to us.

At 1/09/2010 10:57 AM, Blogger Colin Sheldon said...

I actually like parts of this better than the original, for instance "They stop - me (soon) with semi-refined everything, spores left by a cloud introduction." I'll take an introduction over a seizure any day.

At 1/09/2010 11:04 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hence the need for new poetry.

At 1/11/2010 7:12 AM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Lol. :-D


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