Can We Talk About a Poem For a Sec?

The great, renowned, Pulitzer Prize-National Book Award-Robert Frost Medal-etc.etc.-winning America poet John Ashbery turned eighty-eight this week. Eighty-effin’-eight, guys. And he just wrote another book of poetry. Another effin’ book. He’s already published twenty-something books.

LitHub published a poem, “The Upright Piano,” from his new book Breezeway. It’s the best kind of Ashbery: full of imagery, asks a lot of questions, knows itself, invites you in, but still makes you think about what the hell is going on. Here’s the first stanza:

Did we once go to bed together?
And how was it? I need your help on this one.
Good thing it happened, too—
Intelligence without understanding
is like constant frost, pounding at the temples
until its bargain is overseen. I kid you not.

I know Ashbery’s style is controversial and hyper-analyzed and over-scholarized (?) etc. but I just like him. I think he’s funny and wise. After losing Mark Strand last year, I’m just really glad this poet is still walking the planet.


About taoreader

Writer. Managing Editor of a literary journal. Pianist and singer. Dog-lover and Shatner fan.
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8 Responses to Can We Talk About a Poem For a Sec?

  1. catweazle says:

    Is this poem addressed to that creepy doll? If so I have some questions about Mr. Ashbery’s sexual proclivities that I don’t actually want the answers to.

  2. Sota says:

    Is 88 when your memory starts to slide? Maybe he is actually looking for an answer.

  3. mordonez says:

    I will admit to never really having seriously engaged with poetry, but this one time I was in a band called “The Vivian Girls”, named more for the Henry Darger weirdness than for the John Ashbery poetical exploration of same.

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