Saturday, July 22, 2017

Young John …

 The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life by Karin Roffman – review | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Although Ashbery is the least confessional of poets, the upstate New York landscapes and lake vistas of his early years are often filtered into his poems in obliquely revealing ways. His longest poem, Flow Chart (1991), was begun in the wake of his mother’s death, and features numerous passages that evoke his life on the farm, or at his grandparents’ houses in Rochester and then Pultneyville (where Ashbery spent a series of idyllic summers), as well as elliptical characterisations of the tedium and excitements of childhood and adolescence. As Roffman demonstrates in close readings of poems such as the very early “Lost Cove”, Ashbery’s need to make his works present generic or “one-size-fits-all” transcriptions of experience, applicable to anyone, never wholly obscures their origins in the personal.

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