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Where Shall I Wander: New Poems Hardcover – March 1, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
This 23rd collection from Harold Bloom's favorite living American poet is a modestly scaled affair: it doesn't end with a grand long poem, which has become an Ashbery trademark since Rivers and Mountains, nor is it especially big like Can You Hear, Bird nor does it even contain many poems that extend more than three pages (the title poem, at seven pages, is the longest). The book as a whole takes the pleasures of games and makes of them poetic seductions; the adjective "Ashberian"—part Joseph Cornell, part Henry James, part Close Encounters—is perhaps the only one possible to describe the work at this point: "Another's narrative supplants the crawling/ stock-market quotes. Like all good things/ life tends to go on too long.../ Rains bathe the rainbow,/ and the shape of night is an empty cylinder,/ focused at us, urging its noncompliance/ closer along the way we chose to go." Perhaps his secret is in providing us with the experience of terrible encounter in the comfort of our own poem, one that we can choose to occupy for years, even after discovering the beating heart under the floorboards. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ashbery expresses a sly playfulness, a tender theatricality, a surreal sensibility, and an urbane wit. With more than 20 poetry collections to his name, this master of the humorous meditation, this maestro of scintillating streams of consciousness, this perpetuator of the Wallace Stevens' school of philosophical reflection and manicured whimsy frolics in language as though words are flowers and each page is an exotic arrangement. For Ashbery, language is both artifice and life. His new poems are especially sharp, arch, and complexly moody. Rife with allusions to literature and art, they swing teasingly between the vernacular and the rarefied as Ashbery contrasts the more gracious past with the pressing present even as he mocks nostalgia. His characters (his poems are skits, fables, journal entries, and monologues) are full of longing and ruefulness as they reveal and conceal their feelings, performing parlor tricks of the soul to assuage their bruised hearts and fear of age and death. Mercurial, elegant, funny, and magical, these mind-bending and beautifully haunting poems are the knowing work of a virtuoso. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
his precursors, to use a word popularized by his biggest literary fan, harold bloom, were the french symbolists and surrealists, and the american poet wallace stevens. like stevens, asbery's verse has always been immersed in place. whereas stevens place is a kind of dreamed spanish south america, ashbery's place remains the middle north america. even when foreign authors and countries are mentioned, you know he's in the united states. in the title poem, Where Shall I Wander, the poet asks `Is it Japan/where you are? and offers harrowing clues of `slate prisons', `blood forming at the end of an icicle', `fire tongs (not to be confused with chinese tongs, that would be a red herring, now that would be hot)', `conversations at night not meant to be overheard'. all this is preceded by the assertion `it is understood that this is now the past, sixty, sixty-four years ago.' subtract from the publication date of the book in 2005 and the `now' is pearl harbor, war prisoners and maybe the interred japanese american citizens. but that's just the first few stanzas. the rest of the poem reads like a wander through new york city's museum of modern art.
a word to the wise has always been not to read too much into any bunch of accumulated words, which does not hold with ashbery, his words are an invitation to read into them as much as you can possibly imagine.
reading mallarme, baudelaire and latreaumont to see how those french poets manipulated phrases in their language (a reading that holds up in most english translations), is a step toward an appreciation of how ashbery's poetry of no (noh?) meaning, reflects, in a similar manner, with his selection of words, mood and the american place.
the first surprise of this volume occurs more than a third of the way into the book. ashbery's Interesting People of Newfoundland is so readily understandable as to question whether ashbery is having more fun with us than usual by suggesting that the way we're used to having words in meaningful order is for him, a new found land?
so precisely where does he wander? always around home.
...Like all good things
life tends to go on too long, and when we smile
in mute annoyance, pauses for a moment.
Rains bathe the rainbow,
and the shape of night is an empty cylinder,
focused at us, urging its noncompliance
closer along the way we chose to go.
As far as I'm concerned, what is conveyed in Mr Ashbery's new book is wisdom enough for a lifetime--his own or anyone's.