Monday, December 7, 2009

Steven Fama ( and Helen Vendler) on Ashbery's Plenisphere

Steven Fama, of glade of theoric ornithic hermetica on John Ashberry's most recent book of poetry.
A “planisphere” in its primary definition is “a map of half or more of the celestial sphere with a device for indicating the part of a given location visible at a given time.” I like this as a kind of stand-in Ashbery’s work. The poems singly or together present matters and ideas – representative of the actual – in focus at that point, while much else always remains hidden. This of course is just how a planisphere works: it shows the stars and other celestial bodies visible that would be seen at a particular place and time if you were to look at the actual sky. Read a few more lines of an Ashbery poem, or turn the page to a new one (as one would rotate the “wheel” of the planisphere), and there’s, you might say, a whole new universe in view.


So what can be seen, if only momentarily and then shifting towards something else, in Ashbery’s Planisphere? Well, there are poems in which meaning materializes, or almost. Most explicitly there are every so often lines that can be lifted from the page and used to suggest a sort of Ashbery-ian philosophy. This has always been true in his poems, I think, but maybe these days, in this book, the outlines are a bit clearer within the purposeful or unavoidable ambiguity.

Read Steven's review HERE

Add to that, Helen Vendler in the NYT Review of Books (cribbed from the ever vigilant and ever wary BLKDGRD.

I've read those whose dismiss Vendler.... for whatever reasons, as a sterile apologist for academic poetry, the School of Quietude... whatever... I find her always refreshing, stimulating... and in no way stuffy or backward looking in the poetry she selects. She also pays attention to poets as thinkers, and that is always going to be close to what I hope to find in poetry.

No comments:

Post a Comment