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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Late Ashbery

It is known that Ashbery didn't revise much, instead preferring to write many poems and throwing out  those that didn't match up to his standards. Here's one of the uncollected poems of Ashbery, that I found once written on a napkin in a New York City restaurant shortly after he had dined there. I can't prove that he wrote it, but I'll offer it to you anyway, just to set the record straight. It certainly is not one he would have wanted to save:    


Roses are red, and that disquiet among the almond leaves
like antique shelves, told you the gig was up. Meantime
Elmer sold his last possessions, you know the type, always
looking for an angle of repose among angelic figurines.
He didn't dig it, he said. That was that. I on the other hand
foreign to that lexicon and the start-ups it implied, could
not finish anyone else's sentences, much less my own.

You think it's easy being this uptight. Singing for my supper was ok
as long as this was understood as a lame excuse for a metaphor
but what then? More derivative gargling in the movie set saloon?
Hot cakes? Merchandise returns? In the routine
rambling there is a certain snapping point, one you'd
have to be a fool not to improvise on your own while
unseen forces move into position, just before the fall.

Apr├Ęs moi...  But how did this end, really? Not like this
surely, as afternoon gathered its forces amid crumbling icons.
We turned the page, and there was nothing written there.
But the expected result turned up anyway, as though
they had forgotten to cancel the newspaper for their trip,
and the seedy music died down once again, but not for good.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's De-Lovely: Fragment of a Treatise on Aesthetics

and loveliness... what of prettiness, is that the same thing?

Being easy on the eyes? (But that won't apply to the lilting tune.)

Glamour? Sex appeal? Those are separate streams

Like attractiveness and the handsomeness of a "handsome woman,"

applicable only to human beings and other living creatures

where sexual attraction needs strikingly gorgeous visual feasts.

 Beauty itself is none of these things, though not separable from them either...


Saturday, September 23, 2017

MY JA (2)

Ashbery published acclaimed books of poetry in 7 separate decades:

[50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 00, 10...]

What is not quite as remarkable, but is remarkable for me personally, is that I bought and read books by him during 5 of these decades, over and approximately 40 year span of time.

I am a poet

I am a poet

but care little for my archives


The way liar and lyre are pronounced the same way

is like the way I once used to confuse "In a Mellow Tone" with "On Green Dolphin Street"

Or "On Green Dolphin Street" with "Stella by Starlight"

as forgivable as losing one's train of thought in the crowd

as the misuse of baking soda


Writing bad poems was no defense

just a defense mechanism

he said

when people were yearning for quality


So it is with you

Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy

read my poems aloud

in her Dublin accent

and made them seem

not written by me

in my dream

including this one

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cleaning Poem

What if cleaning was your hobby?

You could subscribe to magazines, take classes,

(maybe teach them yourself in night school

once you got really good),

indulge in fine cleaning materials

and tools, treat it like any other pastime

like bridge or mountain climbing,

crossword puzzles or playing a musical instrument,

with the added benefit of cleanliness.

Why do we call some things work and other things hobbies?

You might think I'm being facetious, but this might be a good one for you

or, if not, for someone utterly unlike you in all respects.