Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy birthday to John Ashbery!

John Ashbery's birthday party in 2007 (wish I'd've been there!)

I hope he’s having a great day. He’s gotten many awards and accolades over the years, and he’s stitched now into the fabric of our time. That must be an odd feeling. But, more importantly to me, his poetry continues to inspire and charm me daily. For that I am eternally grateful.

A poem from his most recent book that I like quite a bit. It’s about spring, of course, as it says, but I’m also charmed by the figure of the spilt paint, having just spilt a can of paint in my living room this week.


Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, “mugwump
of the final hour,” lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
and the whole point of its being spring collapse
like a hole dug in sand. It’s breathy, though,
you have to say that for it.

And should further seasons coagulate
into years, like spilled, dried paint, why,
who’s to say we weren’t provident? We indeed
looked out for others as though they mattered, and they,
catching the spirit, came home with us, spent the night
in an alcove from which their breathing could be heard clearly.
But it’s not over yet. Terrible incidents happen
daily. That’s how we get around obstacles.


At 7/28/2011 11:08 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

That cake, by the way, was baked by Geoffrey Gatza, professional chef and editor of BlazeVOX Books, one of the few invited guests to the 2007 party.

At 7/28/2011 12:54 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I didn't know he was a professional chef! Good to know.

At 7/28/2011 1:51 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Yes, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, that other CIA.

At 7/28/2011 8:39 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/29/2011 11:21 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

In relation, some may have never seen this collection of video of Frank O'Hara. The top three pieces are snippets, two of them readings of poems. The bottom one, a long TV interview with Barnett Newman, is absolute Must-See. Towards the middle, O'Hara starts to visibly perspire (someone should write a poem about Frank O'Hara sweating, sometime, I'll bet no one ever thought of the topic, but here's the film of it), and toward the end, he becomes charmingly self-conscious and giddy. Some great moments of talk, and some fun 60s AB-EX blowhard grandstanding from both Newman and O'Hara. Here's the link.

At 7/29/2011 1:17 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I found those videos recently myself and Kent is right, they are very good.

Might you have a link to a recording of Pierre Reverdy floating around? The man's a ghost.

At 7/30/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

as i said several times on my various bloggeri, it's a scandal that Ashbery (as well as other major world poets) has not gotten the Nobel—

he should have got it in place of Heaney or Walcott, at least—

but the Swedish Academy plays politics,

and one of the many admirable things about Ashbery is that, unlike the Sillimanic Langpolitans, he has never (or at least not to my knowledge) claimed that his poetry is SocialistLeftistInsurrectionist and that his revolutionary odes are destined to bring about the overthrow of capitalist tyranny—

At 7/30/2011 4:01 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/30/2011 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ashbery’s poems are little more than linguistic Rorschach tests."

They're a lot more than that. You might find this article interesting.


At 7/31/2011 10:24 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

At 7/31/2011 10:27 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...


Not all language functions are created equal. The rules in which we evaluate a successful grocery list are entirely different than those of evaluating a successful poem. What a poem succeeds at are entirely based on that poem's goals. You wouldn't, for example, read Language Poetry looking for traditional rhyme and meter. Likewise, you don't read Edgar Allen Poe to see how language frames our social and political realities.

Regarding color and meaning, it's arbitrary. There is nothing r-e-d about what we call red, nor is there anything inherently t-r-e-e about trees. Those meanings exist because of our faith in them but one must be skeptical that our belief in them makes them true.

Also, what poet's work isn't a Rorschach test?

At 7/31/2011 1:20 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


"The Doris Day of Modernism"! I never heard that one before. It made me laugh.

Thanks for the link.

At 7/31/2011 1:24 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Shane! Here you go:


At 7/31/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/31/2011 6:27 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/31/2011 6:37 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

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At 7/31/2011 7:28 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 8/01/2011 6:24 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Looks like I missed out on all the excitement.


I tried to find some of their music on youtube, but all that came up were videos of government tests of LSD on cats.

Do you think we could interview the band if we ever get that blog off the ground?

At 8/01/2011 7:55 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Oh, I don't think they'd be anyone to talk to. East River Pipe's Fred Cornog, or FM Cornog, talked about T.S. Eliot in a song awhile back. He works at a Home Depot somewhere on Long Island, I think. You could go there, pretending to look for some rubber gloves?

At 8/01/2011 8:23 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I wasn't serious. They look scary.

I have Chris Tonelli's contact info and he's now following me on Twitter. I'm going to contact him this week.

Also, I could definitely stalk musicians in the NYC area about poetry.

At 8/01/2011 8:31 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yes, and as they're running away to call the police, yelling after them "but I only wanted to talk about poetry" will probably make them redouble their efforts!

It's a nice picture.

(That band does look scary, yes. Very yes.)


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