Poet John Ashbery has published a new book of poems called Planisphere. Boy, I hated this guy’s poems a few years ago. But I kept reading them because of some instinct for self-inflicted mental damage. And I kept reading him. Not understanding him at all. But I liked the words as they passed me by. They sort of slide on by you. Smooth, but switching and becoming something totally unexpected, unrelated to what just happened before. His poems sort of shimmer and seem a bit brittle, like glass. When you read this guy you certainly know that you are not reading someone else. He’s in his eighties, but his work seems like a young man’s. He has a gently rebellious foolishness that I greatly admire.
His publisher, Harper Collins, has a preview of his new book that offers quite a few of the poems.
So does this sound like the writing of an eighty-year-old?
I dream of married couples having sex, shopping, everything,
and often get the giggles, staying here,
expecting something new to come along every five seconds.
That’s new to me, I expect others will have heard about it.
B—’s Mysterious Greeting
And here’s the guy: