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8 March 2001
... As a group we were somewhat vulnerable and are so today. My brother-in-law has fixed me a tower in the mill, from whose oriel I can see the bluebottles who nag heaven with their unimportance. But what are they expected to do? Raise families? Become deacons? If so my calculations collapse into bric-a-brac, my equations are undone. Across the road they are building a cement house. It will seemingly have ...

Understandably

John Ashbery

4 May 2016
... In your smart capacity summon the ambassador. And the infection? It grew. In 1951 I really, really am, little chum. Sorry about the vegetables. Stones’ll be pretty with that. What do you want, John? Informally, a new body, and an assistant. I’ll bet the place is swarming with printers. I wrote them yesterday. Really reached out, plugnutty. Like the noiseless farts of antiquity squeamishness ...

Homecoming

John Ashbery

30 October 1997
... Weather drips quietly through the skeins in my diary. What surly elision is this? Who faxed the folks news of my homecoming, even unto the platform number? The majestic parlor car slides neatly into its berth, the doors fly open, and it’s Jean and Marcy and all the kids, waving pink plastic pinwheels, chomping on popcorn. Ngarrrh. You know I adore ceremony, even while refusing to stand on it, but ...

Northeast Building

John Ashbery

6 December 2012
... I tell myself I’m a minimalist. Not that it matters to the big guns who train their sights on us, who also know about tomorrow and their brothers, and had a pretty good run. It would be that time in the future, that was predicted. The wearing of boater hats had become fairly commonplace, like going to the park. Children ran errands while adults went to the movies. There were more sights along the ...

The Village of Sleep

John Ashbery

5 February 1998
... Why, we must dye it then – Would I like to stay here indefinitely? We have trees to prune, cryptograms to decode, it was all a blind running into the light – She couldn’t say the word for ‘fish’. Nor are his genes undone by what oafish submarines remain. Aye, sir, Captain Nemo, sir, we’ve spotted the junk in the roads up ahead. What! That spasm I created for my own diversion, now it’s ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery

4 November 2004
... More Feedback The passionate are immobilised. The case-hardened undulate over walls of the library, in more or less expressive poses. The equinox again, not knowing whether to put the car in reverse or slam on the brakes at the entrance to the little alley. Seasons belong to others than us. Our work keeps us up late nights; there is no more joy or sorrow than in what work gives. A little boy thought ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery

8 July 2010
... Days like Today Sometimes, on Sundays, they walk a little ways into the oval spell others are soft on. She, a maid, unknown to terror, rising out of the ridge, its spreading cedars bemused and endearing. The ancestors have never been influenced by any kind of logic, not even a shrike’s, and now I can’t even say what a hornet’s-eye view of this catastrophe might englobe, if we were all brothers ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery

20 November 2003
... The Love Interest We could see it coming from forever, then it was simply here, parallel to that day’s walking. By then it was we who had disappeared, into the tunnel of a book. Rising late at night, we join the current of tomorrow’s news. Why not? Unlike some others, we haven’t anything to ask for or borrow. We’re just pieces of solid geometry: cylinders or rhomboids. A certain satisfaction ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery

20 November 2008
... They Knew What They Wanted They all kissed the bride. They all laughed. They came from beyond space. They came by night. They came to a city. They came to blow up America. They came to rob Las Vegas. They dare not love. They died with their boots on. They shoot horses, don’t they? They go boom. They got me covered. They flew alone. They gave him a gun. They just had to get married. They live. They ...

Passive/Aggressive

John Ashbery

21 January 2016
... We were driving along at twenty-five miles an hour. ‘Desperate’ wants to know how the angle tree has went. Or we now can live over a wombat factory, said the woman coming in to see him about something. And I was like, a beautiful little tree, or lake. Just the sandwiches now, we’ll look at the rest later when you’re out of time … Oh yeah? Oh, yeah. That’s it. The water has swirled away ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery

24 September 2014
... The Goofiad Um, it wasn’t my project to prise them apart. Pale Jessica had come full circle. Case in point: she spelled one application under presidential law. How it became one of the names one can’t recall. But on the other hand good old people watch the convention. It’s guaranteed, and not be president. People had yet to live and believe your own cameras which it probably isn’t going ...

Heading Out

John Ashbery

4 December 2014
... A single drop fills the rainbow glass. The fountain overflows. How come the purr and passing of this every night arrives at stealth? Just – be prepared. If it happens every day around this time it happens more than twice. I’d wager this one has nothing in it. So’s your old man. We get called out often on all kinds of suspicious business, he decried. Like when the kittens arrived – ‘le grand ...

Die Meistersinger

John Ashbery

17 March 2016
... Only​ those who actively dislike poetry didn’t like him. The others could care less. There were too many other things to worry about, like is my licence expired yet? Fortunately there were a few in-between, those who school themselves to take an interest in everything, which is not to say they’re not truly, deeply interested in the things that matter most. To them he was a special case, something ...
2 September 1982
Shadow Train 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 50 pp., £3.25, March 1982, 0 85635 424 4
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... Helen Vendler has called ‘an interior state clarified in language’. ‘Clarified’ is an ambiguous word here, meaning the poetry’s effort to achieve the effect of being clear on the page. In Ashbery’s case the wordage trembles with a perpetual delicacy that suggests meaning without doing anything so banal as to seem to attempt it. Poetic syntax is constructed to express with a certain ...

Two Prose Poems

John Ashbery

20 July 2000
... A Linnet It crossed the road so as to avoid having to greet me. ‘Poor thing but mine own,’ I said, ‘without a song the day would never end.’ Warily the thing approached. I pitied its stupidity so much that huge tears began to well up in my eyes, falling to the hard ground with a plop. ‘I don’t need a welcome like that,’ it said. ‘I was ready for you. All the ladybugs and the buzzing ...

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