Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Persuasion versus Seduction

I just read through this Guardian review of Notes from the Air, selected recent poems by John Ashbery. Possibly, it wasn’t a good idea to read this, as I’m due to write a review of the same book in the next few days. Too late now, I couldn’t resist. It won’t affect my own review though and I’m highlighting different poems and ideas anyway. I thought this paragraph was interesting:

But you get the feeling Ashbery could be stirring it a bit here because he does just enough to make you think you might be following it without ever letting it get too coherent; the sense-making is never quite as satisfying as the sound of the lines and the images evoked. He doesn't want to be persuasive, he wants to be seductive. In an Ashbery poem, patterns appear and fade, dramas come and go and unaccountable feelings are stirred. The poems invite you to both make sense and stop making sense, but they never assume they know which is the better thing to do at any given moment. They make it sound entirely plausible to be incoherent, to give up on understanding, and yet 'there had to be understanding to it,' he writes.


Anonymous said...

"They make it sound entirely plausible to be incoherent, to give up on understanding ..."


Which is fine until the morning after.

Rob (2)

Rob said...

"Yet there had to be understanding to it."

That's the other side of the coin, and it seems to me that the more successful Ashbery poems are not entirely senseless. I've brought up the issue in my latest post.