John Ashbery, Rivers and Mountains
(New York: Ecco Press, 1971)
Originally published (New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1966)
Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection March-April 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001)
· joins up the syntactic fragments of TCO, adds a new voice and implied group of readers, drawing less on quoted language than on speech.
· calls out to the readers via the “you” and speaking their language.
“These Lacustrine Cities”, 9
· a naturalised civilisation which is both spectacle and speaker, beginning with long prosaic lines broken into melodic phrases. Discourse of an urban sociology lecture with Freudian overtones.
· the lyrical, dissident 1st person, is usurped by the deities on the control tower with the chosen poet/prophet becoming the urban company man singled out for promotion.
· Shoptaw sees this “unnervingly funny, still small voice of the system” as a major artifice of the poem and will speak again in New York poems of the 70’s-80’s.
· stanza 1: lacustrine means dwelling or growing in lakes, as in Rochester and Shoptaw notes in the early 60’s how such city’s architecture aped an ideal pastoral setting. The narrative here is emotive: bathing-forgetful, angry, hate , love feeling, emptiness, embarrassment. Dropped in Stanza 4-5, then happy, tender, insouciant, desire, disappointment. Then there is the growth of the city: bathing, history, idea, a tower, artifice, burning branches, private project, not ideal but “you will be happy here”, a mountain, a monument, haiku. Thus in the last stanza the actual city becomes in fact the poet/you creative project built out of affections rather than bricks and mortar.
· stanza 2: the tower=both the deities and the skyscraper. Stanza 2 is a bit like the later political poem “Daffy Duck in Hollywood”. The non-utility of love is ironic as it is out of the affect , and the affect is always love, and not out of effect that the city is constructed.
· stanza 3: the “you” in stanza 3 is the Ashbery subject, an assumptive subject, an assumed audience to which the poet can address his remarks in this fashion, and an assumed I within the you as it is an all-inclusive you as in “you are left with an idea of yourself”. The predicament of the you, an afternoon of embarrassment and the occupation “creative games” therefore locates the you also as the poet/subject, held in the world of desire.
· stanza 4-5: the motivation of motif is dropped in favour of digression, extrapolated from the motifs of beacons, torches, sentinels, being watched. The poet/subject/prophet becomes corporate, the deities=the losses, the towers=skyscapers. The narrative is one of alienation (narcissistic solipsism: the desert, the sea), and if interaction with others via the processes of desire (the closeness of others). Also a mini-narrative here from ST and TCO= I, others, dream, childhood. Last line is the double proposition of the poem: the past and the future contained in the moment.
· stanza 6: the compromising tone is very much the later tone of “A Wave”. Opposition if set up between the logic and the climate (climate being sexuality, emotion and context re. ST & TCO.)
· stanza 7: Shop sees the “stench” as a suburban housewife ironing, but also an interaction between force and reification:
wind starchy desire
· The monument of course is the city/body of the affect or in other words, the poem. Thus the you becomes the poet and the cities a poem, merging the process of creation with the autobiographical realm of the climate.
“Rivers and Mountains”, 10-12
· A school of Chinese painting in which perspective is collapsed making the terrain seem more like a relief map and the confusion between map and terrain is instructive cf. Bishop’s “The Map” and Auden’s “The Orators”, the map being not as a guide to reflection but a guide to infiltration.
· Sees the opening as about the assassination cloistering the map, not cloistered in it and the map is of “Moon river”, 1961 Oscar winning song taken from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
· Shoptaw further sees “paper trail” as one all important crypt-word as in Olson’s “field composition”.
· sees it as a suspense thriller in 3 stanzas.
3. summarises tactics, war fare and mop up
· stanza 2: eastern seaboard of the US combining scenery with a capitalist economy.
· final stanza=the homotextual spies, prototype coming from Fritz Lang’s Spies (1928), in “Rivers” the enemy may be revolutionary assassins or insurgents.
· stanza 1: Shop calls this territory and ll. 1-2 confuses maps with territory in a manner which is instructive, the city is the same city and the paper trail both picks up on detective discourse, but it also the poem, “ Quills like thoughts”. The land of the quelled waters is the discourse of uncertainty and note the freedom is granted but must be bought by singing mirror trees. The bird a still centre, haiku style, and lead onto the possibility of territorial confusions: waterfall-harbour. The it of last sentence is the waterfall?/bird. Note anyway the contrast: impact/set in stone—light print.
· stanza 2: Shoptaw calls this the stanza of infiltration, but is more a going around than going in. The territory-paper-plan melds in am image of papier maché. The ongoing motifs are : melody, paper, water, the forest, a double locale of eastern seaboard and urban centres.
· stanza 3: the desire to separate, differentiate here is undermined because the camp of one party is the dividing line, and the territorial marker, the map, has become a veneer of nark on everything thus map=territory. The war is now at sea and the final conclusion picks up the letter of TCO but refines it in reference to the stamp=detail. The petal also returns setting up the paper-leaf motif. The fertile landscape of stanza 1 is now ruined by the sun, symbol of total illumination.
· the poem is about the interposition of the paper between territory and map, that is material existence of, say, the word between signifier/signified.
“Last Month”, 13
· title suggests both the past and that this is the last of all months.
· stanza 1: tells us nothing has actually happened, this is following in the first stanza with the past-future, within the absence present of the present tense (grey light, have gone away, emptied, used to, match recedes into night, fruitless sunlight).
· stanza 2: yet we are also in a state of flux, from sedate to skittish, and that a “timeless value” is “changing”. You can have...but not in full, the final couplet suggesting betrayal is only a picture but that the real (garden) is equally as vague—”cries and colors”. Thus we are at the end, all the time, thing never changing, yet subject to flux, giving us a world where we do nothing in full, especially lack!
“Civilisation and its Discontents”, 14-15
· Shoptaw sees it a s a dramatisation of the Whitmanic “you”: “provides a way for “you” and “I” to meet in publication.” (80).
· the you in the poem is the person to whom the tale is told of the lovers, the poem then slips into a more revealing second person suggesting “I” can only address “you” when civilisation has been shut out. Notes further the Stevens origin of aurora.
· stanza 1: = a wavic coda, people are chained to the promise of dawn, into which “I” disarms “you”.
· stanza 2: the magnitude of particulars (cf. TCO).
· stanza 3: the poet has become the other here, “helping myself” we have again a discourse of absences and almosts. The child + room + fire are the homotextual motifs of TCO, the other/lover is coming in from no-definition to the no-neighbourhood of almost definition. There is a barrier/threshold/blue mark that outs the cool boy at a distance working only as an afterthought, and isn’t dawn also a threshold?
· stanza 4: remarkable cohesive poem about love lost, very beautiful it stands out clear and civilised I guess, but Shoptaw argues the lock is locking out the world.
· stanza 5: the “harping on” is what follows, these images of loss: wreaths, silence, dark sunlight, the plot of grass, festoons, pensions, late return, night, which is nothing...The time is not the elegiac time of desire, but rather that of coming close, closing up gaps, which verbs are articulating but it too late as the poet is already dying. The final images are those of distance (ether) and distinctions (millions of cats), the uplands are ethereal, “no heaviness”. Life becomes disjointed from the lovers suggesting a dialectic between life’s civilising “cutting swamps for men” and its discontent (I—you, articulating gap of love).
“If the Birds Knew”, 16
· again Shoptaw notes here the amorous “you” with the author/reader taking a judgmental bird’s eye view:
“This vantage point affords readers the punitive bird’s-eye view of the law, with “you” and “I” identified in the criminal justice system as the “person or persons involved.” But instead of running for cover, the suspects parade their open secrets.” (80).
· really good poem to follow up the homotextual paranoia of ST, here reticence and cover is still referred to, but now the birds are in on the secret. The birds are ST, but also seems that the rational discourse is equated with the heterosexuality and irrational with homosexuality so that the birds are also Ashbery and filling the gap of the “you”. Need to get more on homotextuality and it limits on paragrammatic discourse generally.
“Into the Dusk-Charged Air”, 17-20
· Shoptaw notes this in reference to Ashbery’s collaboration with Koch in Locus Solus especially “New Year’s Eve” where each lines has a place name and a drink. This nature poem also uses “pseudo//scientific, Rousselian objectivity” (75-6); live merge like rivers through the use of enjambment though as in VN often break its own rules, glut of rivers in one line, in another no rivers:
“Two stanza breaks disconnect this river poem...indicating how difficult it is to conclude this indefinitely extendible, monochromatic poem...” (76).
· The final line is an un-enjambed alexandrine “a closural departure in length” catching the poem in a frieze between 2 states: ice and water.
· this poem is the most successful taxonomy poem in Ashbery’s oeuvre and a great advancement on, say, “The Instruction Manual”—the verbs are limited and it is also unusual I think for the poem’s cohesion to come from verbal motifs. The poem manages to be intensely motivated but to somehow avoid discourse and it suggests that total motivation is not the definition of poetry nor total equivalence.
· stanza 1: the predominant verb is “flow”, but the flow of the rivers seems synaesthetic in that is metonymically brings in all that relates to it: light, river banks, life on the river banks, traffic, sea.
· stanza 2: does not thus mark a sudden jump into new verbs but rather new conditional and past tenses, then the verbs begin to develop: sidle, choked, slapped, seized; this seems to rise up to the Zambezi which “chimes”, definitely not a verb of motion, and the first double river line that is not truncated, then flow again becomes predominant and present tense returns. “You” comes in with the Yenisei, which makes the rivers somehow symbolic of the desires of the other and, as if in keeping with the structures of desire, questions begin to be raised here. Freezing occurs with the Brazos, then we have a word-pool of freezing.
· stanza 3: the poem ends between ice—water, originally ended only in ice.
· the poem has, therefore:
-verbal operatives: flow—freeze
-verb based variations
-raising of you-desire
“The Ecclesiast”, 21-22
· Shoptaw places it along with “the Skaters”, “The System” and “A Wave”, as all are exploring a “rupture in the historical, cultural, and personal systems of self-representation.” (78). The effects of which are registered in the heterosexual institutions, the American woman, the housewife, “honey”. The lack of structural soundness in the poem is one mark of how institutions can break down.
· he further quotes stanza 3 as a contrastive collage exemplar to the novel collages of TCO, here there being a collage of idiomatic speech acts (cf. p.79). PHOTOCOPY. A drawback for Shoptaw being that these idioms are merely used, rather than investigated, quoted rather than integrated.
· stanza 1: blends recent past time periods, female protagonist arbiter of sun-sanctioned, rationally discursive, truth based, heterosexual discourse.
· stanza 2: really into the Ashbery world here: temporal zone; clausal modifiers, conditionals, non-sequitors; bathetic shifts; bland diction; speech cadences within a sentence as a minimal unit; everything is tainted and non-absolute.
· stanza 3: demotic speech, see INSERT.
· stanza 4: the nostalgic shift from dream time to compromised reality: “You shall never have seen it”
· stanza 5: the final image is not of a world where the metaphysical no longer exists but where it is unseen/unheard due to the industrial pounding if the factories—still a symbol of means-ends. The concomitant result seem to gap-based, inter-personal relationships which actually typify desire.
“The Recent Past”, 23
· Shoptaw notes it in relation to the construction of what he calls “Ashbery’s hapless reader”—nestled between the 2 yous of l/1, stanza 2; the quintuplets = iambs, the reader is befuddled by Ashbery’s style he suggests. Essentially he sees the poem as a joke at the readers’ expense.
· stanza 1: suggest to the reader they should use imagination as opposed to 70 degrees above zero rationality, the reward is the haiku/imagist l.3, the conclusion being that in this system of the world, the poem’s most unusual strategies are not strange at all. All this seems justified due to the restless ness of metaphysics after all we are in Ashbery’s time of the “recent past”...relate to the archival moment.
· stanza 2: you x2 is a bracketing devices I often use also ll.2-4 is the burning leaves of grass joke which seems to befuddle the reader. Final 8 lines reproduce the experiential advent of reading the Ashbery poem:
-the search for internal cohesion almost attained, in rhyme
-the search for semantic cohesion destroyed by an early archetype for “A Wave”
-associative processes outstripping understanding
-that there is a system, last 2 lines but it is both occluded and obtuse.
“The Thousand Islands”, 24-25
· a complex working through further of Ashbery’s mature style dealing, seemingly, with themes of restriction and threat.
· stanza 1: temporary periodisation, notice the continuance—scrap (morsel) dichotomy relating to the picturesque sublime of TCO and the title also.
· stanza 2: the poem is about a difficult nether region, a non-generic tragedy if you like where things are bad but somehow non-threatening; the storm threatens but when it breaks (stanza 6) is not at all what we expected.
· stanza 3: tether, strays—all relates to images of restriction. The bank is a river bank but then begins to establish the island motif—no man is an island. The title is picturesque then in that it tries to convey a sense of large, particulate, but limited community. These is somatic disintegration here which is quite unusual for Ashbery who is not really a poet of the body. We have the moment-miracle-event here which is both narrative continuance (opening around you) and yet of course also instantaneous. “Eyes” = desire-hunter-detective motif.
· stanza 4: the promise is both the futurity of the Ashbery tense and of desire, knowing that what will be learned will be a post-sceptical epistemology which will lead to a post-subject ontology.
· stanza 5: ironic as the “imaginary pause” is, within the poem’s body at least, real; also an absence (pause, gap) absented.
· stanza 6: when the storm arrives, instead of an absolute destruction that eschatologically, could result in a 2nd coming, we find a blind enemy (no desire) who revels in defeat. Note the inversion: smile-day, a prime examples of the disruption/disappointment of absolute chaos, the semantic is disrupted but is retrievable to a degree. Again continuance—instant (swift, imperfect, condensation), somatically rendered in the temporality of the flesh! Does die but gets worn, and the permanence of emotion.
· stanza 7: this culminates in the non-deep blackness which only modifies and obscures, never destroys in full. “Cold air and bread” = prison.
· stanza 8: an image of the median, imperfect world.
· stanza 9: stanza 8 seems to = the failings of desire (simple shapes aspiring), stanza 9 the similar failings of civilisation, glass prisons.
· stanza 10: the equators =the limits they discover:
1. the natural world
2. the subjective world of desire and aspiration
3. the cycle of defeat—the process.
“A Blessing in Disguise”, 26
· Shoptaw sees it as the most elaborated 2nd person poem in the collection, recalling the Harvard poems but with the benefits of the Parisian experiments. Balladic quatrains explore a “manifold you”: lover, reader, consumer, multiple people, the other. Sees it as a love song to his readership but his misrepresentation of loves discourse keeps the readership at a distance. The title = the poetic method, a homotextual continuation of ST’s reticence.
· Shoptaw says one f the few French poems composed a year after “The Skaters” and the latest poem in the collection, Ashbery seeing it a s a pivotal poem, a completed puzzle in which he had re-assembled the fragments of “Europe” (analytic to synthetic):
“Wouldn’t it be nice, I said to myself, to do a long poem that would be a long extended argument, but would have the beauty of a single word? “Clepsydra” is really a meditation on how time feels as it is passing.” (84, Ashbery cited from Kostelantz’s interview, 1976).
· the poem is a long extended argument: a plot summary, a philosopher’s system, and a lawyer’s presentation (clepsydrae were used in Greece to time lawyers)—the case argued is the divorce of the past from the present, poem from poet, one lover from another (love becoming a “writ” in the poem). Here, for the first time serpentine sentence takes over the line and only on reflection do end-words seem significant. Calls it all-over writing with “lines contracting into a plane” (RM28) [this syntactic linearity is being reduced and internally expanded into planal dimensions]. Across the plane, punctuation marks are less logical connectives than musical pauses. In “Skaters” lines are longer but sentences are shorter and seem more able to stand on their own, in “Clepsydra” they present “an overlapping, multi-layered argumentation”, polyphonically sounding in the text at different levels:
“Embedded within clauses and figures, and shorn of its principles and facts, the romantic argument of “Clepsydra” furtively proceeds.” (86).
· Shoptaw sees the poem as a wake in 3 parts or tenses: lover wakes up alone, remembers his dream of love, returns to wakefulness. It begins at dawn unlike the lectures of “Skaters” and the discussion of “Fragment”, it is an interior monologue, with even the opening question repunctuated so that it answers itself. Pronouns operate musically = new movements or “keys”—there is an interiorised “you”—identified we—generic you—performative I—narrative he—speaker you (even a she).
· notes that “hasn’t the sky” is present perfect, which presents a key argument in the poem that the present does indeed perfect the past, justifying it, and also the question and answer format is key to Ashbery and its analogy to stimulus-response, guaranteeing a temporal and epistemological order. It is highly solipsistic without plunging into total self-knowledge:
“Properly speaking, “Clepsydra” is not solipsistic since its speaker claims to know neither himself nor his elapsing world.” (68).
· sees it as a confession of agnostic faith, the hollow universe enclosed in the after effects of an unknowable centre: “stands as a sceptically informed act of faith in progress.” (89).
· sen.1: dawn, the other authority being night, this is the morning after the night before.
· sen.2: the clouds, steamy landscape = the world of dreaming but also now synonymous with a kind of air (steam, clouds). Air is the “undecided result” and is opposed to land (scape) as the basis for fitness/argument.
· sen.3: thus it is only the ethereal shadows we deal with
· sen.4: supporting image
· sen.5: subclausal qualifier relegated now to a separate sentence, thus rhythmically the fluidity of sen.2 on is slowly drying up into this argument by degrees, “little draughts”—small bits. This is the push-pull rhythm of the piece.
· sen.6: the reply to this is waking (remember: waking-remember dreaming-wakefulness), the motion here between perception and consciousness is an ideal place to re-raise to elegiac: untruth (abstract)-will moment (institution)-the self-reflexive of the poem is apparent here as drumming at different levels in its polyphonic rhythms.
· sen.7: longest sentence, crypt word: weather-le temps-time-climate. Basic proposition is that of the post-modern poet and here we have the early prototype for the Ashbery world, explaining poetry which came before and which will follow. Note the non-absence here again a vital elegiac motif. The concluding remark is interposing the subject/love between an articulating creator: “marrying detachment with respect” or merely an infinite piece of bad luck.
· sen.8: reiterates this with the image of stone (tablets, white as, is carved in, the dust).
· sen.9: the ongoing process of the argument this being the “one word” which the poem consists of, and which cause us to disassociate the present from truth, promising always a future tense.
· the Ashbery tense here is the present perfect itself being call into past perfect by the promises of the future.
· sen.1: central image of lines into planes, linear into diagram or the movement of the paragram as Kristeva describes it (also rainbow).
· sen.2: strangely the “further action” of the light of the future then seems to fold back on itself suggesting the response precedes the stimulus: a—q, thus leading the question into subjecthood by making it dream, making it the person waking, we come in therefore after answers and try to argue back until the word/dream is exhausted. Final image denotes again this weird temporal existence: past—progress (further)—about an hour ago (recent past).
· sen.3: the sublime nature of “it”, the light of the future promise, numerous images of the sublime in support of this here; a realm beyond dreaming.
· sen.4: the realm of the sublime, the there of beyond the dream which is ongoing dialogue with its own dialogism, interposed into this being the absent other/lover.
· sen.5: the sublime fulfils a role of “disunion”, abolishing the confusion of now producing pellucid moments “into the gaze of its standing / Around admiringly.”
· sen.6: this is problematised by the inner looking narcissistic blindness of lovers.
· sen.7: suggests this was okay, a kind of self-enforced blindness like that of denying metaphor (the stars), the stars then becoming symbols of subjective being in the interaction with some vengeful other power.
· sen.1: to this singular subjectivity of solipsistic self-immersion in denial of yet also in the hands of fate, he now adds a plurality which both rise up into the affirmation of the “shout” (yes: yes) and also cats us back to look at the road travelled. Could the shout here be sexual?
· sen.2: the water motif is retained, note the change in status of motifs here—they actually are thematic and not the way in which the wave is—use “A Wave” perhaps as an exemplar of the perfect Ashbery. Shoptaw notes this word “prevision” which ties in the effect-cause reversal brought about here, also suggest what exists before vision.
· sen.3: that permanence is performative category akin to the “shout”, that is a speech act that exists only in the time of performance.
· sen.4: the irony being there was bi originary statement to previse.
· sen.5: again the interjective word “dumb cry”. Note the peculiar Ashbery tense again: “projected after effects”. The importance of the “Waste Land” of origins is that it is itself as performative as the subject/object world it destabilises thus becoming reduced to a tripartite schema:
1. Ashbery tense (experience of time) waking ù
2. the gestural (process of experience) remembering dreaming ú—lovers
3. climate (the surrounding beyond) wakefulness û
· sen.6: the lovers return via this beautiful remembering of the mythic 1st meeting extrapolating out in Rousselian mountain scene and a further description of climate.
· sen.7: the walls = control Ashbery relishes in faith.
· sen.8: images now offered in support of this: 1st here the “moments” boring back into the old way of looking = to happiness, and...
· sen.1: this wonderful, Stevensesque image of a harbour in early morning, a empty feeling of organisation that reduces the creators to human scale (reducing the climate) and which is both a moment and n archive (good term here: archival moments).
· sen.2: against this pleasure to be gained within the archival moment come the rational demands of the “writ” producing a second, rigid body to contrast with previous images of elasticity.
· sen.3-4: and yet whilst is destroys, it was needed to try to avoid such a restriction, a placing of something beyond acts to preserve faith, now that faith is acts, it is here the irony comes in (note again the dusty gravel).
· sen.5: the result is the decollation of feelings into order.
· sen.6: “after all” must be placed on the far side of the moment producing a reification to compete with the elasticity cause by prevision, therefore we have an articulate moment:
· this presupposes the Ashbery subject en procès here, a subjectless subject, held in the gestures (poetry-love) of being in the archival moment by the pressures of a surrounding climates.
· sen.7: the day is developing from dawn into a “widening angle”, again we return to issues of light-climate, here the we have a further wondering as to the nature of this constructed climate.
· sen.1: here in this long 2 sentence sequence we have the 1st issue of the climate construction which is elevation, and now here the subjects construction of the archival moment and how it operates...
· sen.2: against which one places “acts” to challenge the invasion of the past (acts - gestures).
· sen.3: the years are like the lovers here trying and failing to outwit us, their failure accretes material which is how the elegiac process of the poem is built up out of dejecta.
· sen.4-5: synthesis here of the internal-external landscapes on the one side, but also the tripartite object of the other: object—other—iron fist
· sen.6: subject/poet of desire.
· sen.1: the return of the lover/other to the equation.
· sen.2: the intensification of the echoes = a channel = the past?
· sen.3: here then the inter-subjective is added into our tripartite schema, as a fourth entity or integrated into each part? The image of the “stammering vehicles” is surprisingly morose for Ashbery but useful symbol of the creative process.
· sen.4: sudden transport to the impersonal he: note the double motion of the automaton here: repetition of the now, return of the pastanza
· sen.5: this “he” whom is disillusioned, suddenly is a post-modern Whitman, but of rain (water) rather than grass.
· sen.6: rhetorical proposition of total equivalence and yet with respect for the moment.
· sen.7: moving towards a point of suspension, an arrested wave.
· sen.8: the idea of a total life is equated here quite naturally with that of sexual union, and its failure to be attained leaves the lover/poet alone in his head now in full wakefulness remember.
· sen.1-2: the poet feels held in the transparent prison “glass prisons” (cf. 1000 islands).
· sen.3-4: summary of desire—totality. Brilliant, the perfect central poem I think for issues of the sublime and desire.
“The Skaters”, 34-63
· Shoptaw sees it as a farewell to the poetics of New York School and a preparation for the “talking poetics” of Flow Chart. 4 parts: Pt.1: free-verse paragraphs, pt.2: encloses within its paragraphs an exodus of 40 quatrains, pt.3: “quotes” indented lyrics and pt.4: condenses its free verses into little isolated stanzas. 4 chapters = the fours seasons of childhood youth maturity and old age, though the poem is not an autobiography. Has a host of voluble, disarming 1st person speakers. Sees the rhythm as ongoing oscillations between positive—negative, abstract—concrete, typifying an aesthetic contra to logocentrism thus:
“The emphasis is Ashbery’s work is always upon the movement or rhythm between poles rather than upon bipolar opposites themselves.” (91).
· Note the importance of storm vs. flakes. Named after “Les Patineurs”, a medley by Constant Lambert of the skaters ballet from Meyerbeer’s opera Le Prophète. Notes again in opening section the importance of desire to the poem as a whole. still using collage here from “Three Hundred Things a Bright Boy can do...”, but now very sparingly, only about 25 lines.
· pt.I: p.34:
· stanza 1-3: the sound/motion of the skaters raising the issue of the “event” and its non-eventhood and how this ties into the series of events, “hips” then are symbols of this confounding the absolute values of the sublime. The second stanza is perfect pacing, a brief moment of moments. Raises the issue of “novelty” not necessarily as a good thing but rather indicative of our inability to hold onto anything.
· stanza 4: again another single line stanza interrupts but this time it is not a moment frozen, but a process of changing.
· stanza 5-6: now a second theme, childhood, the basis for section 1 apparently, again traditional Ashbery childhood and considerations on what survives (elegiac theme of mutability). The decibels have become melodious tolling, and the collection motif is stanza 5 becomes the taxonomy of stanza 6, of instruments. The noise is not the time of the performance but merely the noise of hearing it.
· stanza 1: sudden passage from youth to age, the subject is not only lost in time but in the variant processes of time which the transition from skating to melting process is predicted by “undrowning”. Note also the other/lover.
· stanza 2-3: again these ideograms interposed, the 1st privileging shadows cast over actual evidence, the second equating this with children, child-like vision.
· stanza 4: back to the winter scene, and the lines of the skates on the ice as a simple symbol of the moment: irreducible and yet part of a larger series, also perspective becomes the vagaries of memory.
· stanza 1: spring (change), comes into winter (solid-instants).
· stanza 2: the poet speaks now of the moment especially via returns, letters, news, intervals, projectors of shadows.
· stanza 3: these moments are now contrasted with the great winds of time changing things on a larger canvas, the wind is a process but is the process of general decay not the moment by moment progression.
· stanza 1: the wind becomes the threat of ST and also the spies of “Europe”.
· stanza 2: here the skating process, which is the process of exquisite arabesques, contrasts in its unfathomable specificity to the broad sweeps of wind = 2 types of brushwork if you like.
· stanza 3: there is a girl here, descending, waking, drinking sap; a sense of the way in which the climate is not a totality but in fact leaves a lot unfinished which the light seems to want to hide from us.
· stanza 1: returns to ST/TCO and the symbolic safety of interiors to shield us from the errors of precision. Direct reference to desire note.
· stanza 2: repetition of motifs: letters (post), light, interiors, spring, the cube vs. music.
· stanza 3: stresses here how meaning cannot be enforced on all of this as the weight of semantics will destroy the whole thing. Goes onto to question of leaving out which will be becoming leaving in in TP. A vital passage of absence-presence central to the argument of the elegiac is as the following:
· stanza 1: which is the sublime-picaresque nature of his misrepresentative poetry.
· stanza 2: bland, bathetic conclusion.
· stanza 3-4: again the poet choose the interior.
· stanza 5: explains simply that old, causal semantics are now of no use and neither is he.
· stanza 1: lovely sustained extended metaphor of the poet’s mind’s eye and the balloons passing idly over landscapes (cf. Redon). The poet’s role being an equal measure of accepting the occult and yet also understanding origins and causes.
· pt.II, p.41
· stanza 1: the letter
· stanza 2: note the linear change from the long lines of I, full of enjambment. The letter is that of desire, of course to the lover/other.
· stanza 5-6: from the letter we get islands (1000 islands) and a fortification?
· stanza 1: not sure what is going on here except the change in locale and climate is indicative if ageing that Shoptaw notes.
· stanza 2: the stamps re. the letters, what is this a symbol of? Definitely a sense of ending here and of ageing.
· stanza 3: the fort = our construction aginst the others, the heavens = the old values.
· stanza 4: he is therefore parodying truth and systems of it.
· stanza 5: a sense of Prufrock word weariness.
· stanza 1: a journeying motif of middle age? To a place not recommended and unable to compete with the past, still...
· again the girl, weeping now, clearly that they sail off together here in the perfect image of heterosexual love is ironic.
· an extended journeying motif.
· stanza 4: change of stanzaic form, now it is the man who descends, now the narrator is homotextual again, relating to images of sex and love.
· stanza 1: stark contrast to the ecstasy of the journey is this much more morose passage on love and its dissatisfactions.
· stanza 3: note the triadic foot here.
· stanza 4: the hips returning, now we are skating.
· stanza 5: comes down in favour if a curved-linear combinatory model that is chiasmatic and yet also parallel.
· stanza 6: note taxonomy creeping back in here.
· stanza 2-3: the parallelograms are continued. The continuity breaks up here into collage again cf. “Europe”.
· fire! recipes for fire, rational discourse I guess, the “fire demon” becomes a false poet contrasted to the love poet. Fire then seems a false, inflammatory solution to problems which are too varied to be solved anyway, whole section ends with the symbol of parallel lines and their paradox.
· pt.III, p.51:
· stanza 1: stiffened handkerchief in the air, good symbol to contrast to the storm/snow flake. Addressing a specific you on how to retain subjectivity.
· stanza 1: the tear stiffened becomes sperm here.
· stanza 2: seem to now be in a vast topography, fit for giants. The “I” now addresses the “you”, more storms and water.
· stanza 3: death here and its threat is offset by the promise of perspective, and whilst there are contrasts, they are:
1. undermined: sleep, death and hollyhocks
2. made to seem not so vital.
· stanza 1: collage?
· stanza 2: advice poem as in Koch, here he suggests protection and dreaming.
· stanza 3: dream vs. desire and a sense of the need for individualisation.
· note the stanzas are lengthening as are the lines.
· stanza 1: return via the balladic repetition/refrain to the sexualised landscape of his youth.
· stanza 2: back on the island, now shipwrecked there.
· stanza 1: Robinson Crusoe influence, 1000 islands.
· stanza 3: concedes the comparison of RC with himself then debunks it, the island perhaps now Manhattan?
· here the large, prosaic, rational stanzas break up into short collage pieces, and the poet concedes his own schema of youth, old age and death to be worn out.
· he/you/Ashbery . Back into the Ashbery tense/mood, the climate returns, we have the near future and the recent pastanza
· concludes back in the night, a night of death and ecstasy.
· pt.IV, p.60:
· much more broken stanzas from this point and a lot shorter than the previous 3 sections. The motifs of climate and ageing re: the subject, persists however.
· time is passing here and again we are on the verge of a journey.
· seems to be the life story of the “tiresome old man”. Finishes in lyrical, imagistic style, much less densely than it began. Final image is one of slight change, the apples are all getting tainted and perfect harmony of the constellations. Not return to the complex figure of the skaters yet the spectrum recalls straight line whilst a number of chiasmatic images also persistanza