A Tone Poem
by John Ashbery
It is no longer night. But there is a sameness
Of intention, all the same, in the ways
We address it, rude
Color of what an amazing world,
As it goes flat, or rubs off, and this
Is a marvel, we think, and are careful not to go past it.
But it is the same thing we are all seeing,
Our world. Go after it,
Go get it boy, says the man holding the stick.
Eat, says the hunger, and we plunge blindly in again,
Into the chamber behind the thought.
We can hear it, even think it, but can't get disentangled
from our brains.
Here, I am holding the winning ticket. Over here.
But it is all the same color again, as though the climate
Dyed everything the same color. It's more practical,
Yet the landscape, these billboards, age as rapidly as before.
And the second one talks about poetry, whichever way you like it - plain or teasingly difficult, a tad obscure but alluring.... inveigling and capturing us with the beauty of the language and the resonances and musicality of the phrasing even before we understand it fully. Or as Erica Wright put it in the preface to an interview with Ashbery in Guernica Magazine, his poems can be "difficult, magnetic, rebellious." Magnetic, alright; there's something in most of Ashbery's poetry that draws me in - like iron drawn to a magnet!
Paradoxes and Oxymorons
by John Ashbery
This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don't have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.
The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What's a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be
A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.
It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren't there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.
Note: My post on Ashbery when I was celebration National Poetry Month in 2011.