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.