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 and Editor. Pianist and singer. Dog-lover and Shatner fan. Feminist and proponent of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. I don't get it either. I wish I could have dinner with Marie Curie.
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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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