Thursday, October 29, 2009

Misreading Ashbery in bed

There's something about John Ashbery's poems that invites subconscious misreadings that aren't, however, obviously deleterious. For instance I initially read an old poem of his that begins

The tires slowly came to a rubbery stop


The trees came slowly to a rubbery stop

The switching of verb and adverb is uninteresting because one smoothes out meter in one's head all the time; however, the adventitious image of a rubber plantation, I think, sort of helps the poem.

Similarly, he's got a new thing in the LRB that goes

Others, looking out
over the bay’s mild waters could barely distinguish
a message

which, naturally, I took to be the baby's mild waters, which is evocative; I suppose the image literally means a baby passed out in a tepid pool of piss, but there's a cluster of more pleasant connotations floating about barely distinguishably. And I've done this with other work of his too, presumably because of the vague grab-baggy nature of Ashbery's poems. Or maybe I'm just unusually prone to stairs-and-stripes-isms.

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