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on December 10, 2012
Who am I after all to review the new book by the man often considered America's finest living poet?
I do have the slight credential that I did actually buy the book and much to my own surprise managed to read more than half in a single sitting.
I am a little sad. Ashbery has been more or less disappointing my expectations since the great book Can you Hear, Bird (almost 20 years old now) and Quick Question has disappointed even my diminished expectations.
One could of course pontificate mightily about poets who as they aged never again found the greatness of their youth, or counter that with those who, in their age, wrote wise and good poetry. What would be the point?
Ashbery's recent poetry does not blow the top of my head off. I do not stop at the end of a poem and exclaim--wow--even though half the time I only had a vague idea of what he meant. I expect that I will not return to the poems in this book, as I have not returned to the poems in Planisphere.
In fact, my sole reaction on reading the new poetry in Quick Question is--oh there's that Ashbery trick, or that one, trotted out one last time in the hope it can salvage an uninspired poem.
The plethora of pronouns without antecendents, the sudden colloquial expression, the juxtaposition of two uncommon objects.
When you juxtapose two uncommon things, and they are just two uncommon things, its, well, a little vapid.
You might want to buy or borrow the book yourself to see if you agree or disagree with me. This book reminds me very much of Planisphere; if you grooved to that one, you might find this one entertaining. And in all truth, Ashbery still writes better poetry than the vast majority of American poets.
Yet this book seems a very light craft to ride out this hour's monstrous storms.