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Ashes to Ash: Elegiac Language in the Poetry of John Ash and John Ashbery

A rare image of the elusive poet John Ash

Not much if anything has been written about the work of UK poet John Ash. This is a shame. Along with Lee Harwood, he represents the successful export and development of New York School poetics intoa European environment. Which is not to say that he is also his own man. In fact the much mentioned similarities between Ash and Ashbery, the basis in some sense for this paper, are overstated. That said, here I am stating them.

This was originally presented at the Symbiosis conference in UCL towards the end of last century. Sorry, couldn't resist the grandeur of that phrase. Like so many of my earlier works it was accepted for publication by Symbiosis only to be cut when the editors got chicken over using theory to analyse poetry.

Ashbery's Fragment

The beginning of dizain 3 of John Ashbery’s “Fragment” expresses the paradox of poetic edges: “This page is the end of nothing / To the top of that other” (Ashbery 78). The poem was written in a s…

From "Moths", Part 2 Dip

Fourth

I get the feeling that nothing gets made here any more my darling not since the buy out and up bye your leaf-like stare I pitch my temporal mausoleum helicopter pigeons turn up wards is this an autumn?
unmodulated space.
the iron smelt of your dead fresh perfumes in colours to which are appended no descriptive names only crude but expressive interjections
kricch
scarap
ameliomore
merrmarr morr hurr.
no body but us and the transfixed boeing wing whose jet engines bulge like black bags of blue pollen so as to become theme for you and emptiless motif for me from the boeing it is snoring in the hangar you become my bosom stranger.
some body stop me I
would not hurt my self
awful as that simile might be.
the sluice is a bourgeois red and naked
beer burbles from the slag into fake leatherette.
industrial inertia has forcibly quitted the city of its indwellers to be outdwellers forever mobile in on in on you bantering with yourself whilst the cabbage and because of the zucchini in ordnance of iv if…

From "Lines in Space"

on worthiness


1. in this case it is true I
am not worthy and the post-development backwoods don’t require my
happiness they suggest rest
beckon with what they have to beckon with on the pinespice
HOW TO BE SO AND WHO TO ASK TO JUDGE

temptation demands a resistance—a stream drags on the ill-placed limb
sucks on it implores of it, shuddering with wanting

steep banks adorned with trolley and trish-trash

last year’s duct-grate deteriorating, its thematic half-life…
along come wild-life and well-wishers

you need to get to the other side of this
precarious substance of middles and the consonance of struggling (as sign)

who wants that who needs this shit I
(width voluptuous) agree with you, what more is there? and
would love to see you tell it to him straight to his face man would that be sweet a
swift shift of feet and we are all bustled on by

2. why resort to emblems when actuality is so im- mediate and attractive?

SUITED&BOOTED

(with) paradoxes any fool can solve and be king of this shambolic interplay
b…

From "Moths", Part 2, Dip

Every stream had its cañon, and in each cañon was a waterfall so high that no trout could leap up. Although they used to try it every day, not one ever succeeded. So it went on.

Third

paid in full you must quit this place it was only rented to us the way all of life’s moments seem to moulder in glass cases in ad-hoc pet-shops with the snapped stick insect getting older slowly and with nobody noticing to be suddenly redeemed by an imposing woman wrapped all in black her gold jewellery strikes and rings the glass.
is any of this any help?

darling trains are leaving be on all of them drinking beer as europe is cerealised besides you putting my mouth to your palm and finding lumps of sugar there.
in the quad
ivy impersonates
love off the wall
a fifth side
is a trellis
for the coy
infinite.
semen blood shit:
tears apparently are poison if you drink enough of them is that why they say “that’s right let it all out”?
semen blood shit
this narrative
in that order.

this will be as loose as losing you is I mean…

From "Lines out of Space"

exit the dragon

literature moods and dreams and
enter the dragon gone silly
rolled in the gorging of votive candles such
incense curls out from in

the heart is loosed from
where you had it pegged
up joins the clottings’ progress and
bullying them bowls over from

a wide sparse boulevard black
cabs cruising and bent in-
to a shape of smudging off of veering
through the borrowing undercroft

ellipse…
the heartrend of waiting
burns at the tiptwist of

now comes the ought of the message but
what was offered up was
also ushered on and out and emptied
up

From "Moths", Part 2: Dip

Second

and believe me I would get-up-and-go-out now spilt on streets as if tar came from a cauldron rainbow throated like petrol on a puddle is and I am still living still solvent.
let me buy you the flower of an other affair.
one more night its petals are sombre and serrated so to grasp each head in the begging of a fist (say it my fist!) which weep of yesterday’s dawn and tear.

the way they have when they separate
they are we give even as they are taken
and they are flowers and we are nothing
not women not hearts not nothing
nothing of the smut of euphemism about
them only the heady clarity of the scent lets
be nice lets in fact would be overstating it
learn a trait from them just the one.

caught-yards cut with ink and mellow drama dogs lifting strings of legs there here under the red rugs which were your favourites which sway in the heat like fainting which are thread bare and fine oh so fine which are from byzantium and romania which might take us from ourselves and make us better than we are…

From "Lines in Space"

me and my homunculus


some launching bird packs up its paper wings / sounds
of the wrapping ripped from giving
over in the corner these herbs have no frozen moniker and
thusly we see them not but boy can we smell ‘em
y’know like kinda the invisible acts performed behind the scenes of the charitable fun run (once more round the plantation vicar? for which no credit that is due is given
my mind is functioning well
and I am happy with it thanks
its gift, in case anyone asks, is flight whose receipt, still valid, is some how mis-
laid no here it is! super!

The Power of Love remains
the most popular
name for a pop
song it is any wonder
you take me higher / relight my fire / my only desire / ancestral quire
I think therefore you are a lone magpie in wch case
we all salute you along with those who are about to
rock river wide expanse fragrant canyon paper scissors
nature the restricted nature the tedious
behind the scenes does not pertain to a staged totality such as the Yellowstone caldera
raise a red curtain
un…

From "Lines out of Space"

despatches from sad farm

the blowsy spectacle of a moon
snagged in a branch of the oak
attracted few spectators
idlers and chancers
rubberneckers at the frazzled edge
of lyricism’s limit
they would go away and
not write sagas which
no one would bother to read

shuffling rippled through the sense of a glen
re-hashed memories of life
lived on the sad farm
livestock insulted by their lot
I must surmise
a real relationship with the certain world
called nature has been denied me
time after day after time after day

later we found secretions from the disaster
such as it was which was not much
speckled were our coats
some scarves seemed dipped in silver
dust one glove had stiffened
feathers poking through the gates of wool

you said this crop was raised up
many moons before
so now it is right just even
to knock it back
rake up what was shed
and then preserve it in
the very gaze which had harmed us

From "Moths" part 2: Dip

first

left alone in the desert of a city of you as it is always you.
the chestnut vendor vends for everything “closure closure” and you buy from her what you normally could not give (it) away cordite pulls its rug from under you as weather is blown back off of the atlantic.
off the atlantic.
in rented accommodation we shuffle like slippers like we would not dare to stride out bare-chested into a future all of which always always seems dog-ear-marked for the rich.
here we are the poor.

old women come in here at this point from the country with radishes squashes wild mushrooms tiny bouquets of pretty pink flowers which are a type of poison.
very is pink.
so you see them as you like them because you buy them.
you you because of you.
typewritten foxes take umbrage at crates
the offprint vole bears a viaduct.

I like the way
small creatures are
taking back this place
timid in their city
flicking to the corners
when seen like balls
bearings in the imp-
ossible and hey!
is not life a kind of
impossible game?
no? y…

From "Lines out of Space"

delving delving

where is everyone how have we been vacated
brother come in from the field of announcements
another season must remain on your desperate heads
and yet we exist and yet we still exist

all this is little more than delving delving
fiddling and perverting the course as
a matter of course and while the quarry escaped the
chisel still your heart can gouge there

the haunting chimes of scaffold props
cried come on down the road and see
the ineffable is still abroad vital and
handsome in the rotten coves of ealing

cousin I say lay down your crop of excuses
and sister tell our aunt not to sow
the seeds of predictions and limping arrivals
all that will be here is here now and that will be all

what’s this you ask why that is nothing
little more than delving delving and casting and
wait there is one verb more which we’ve held on to
it will support and yet confound us and

as we huddle and hug our knees and scratch our chins
the blown-out curtains mistaken for the
single missing thing the other piece that n…

From "Lines out of Space"

"let's call it timothy"

all this is yours to keep




with a false sense of something wondrous lost
okay strike up one more time with that balsa guitar play
melodies no sweeter than the most sentimental of us can bear think
however not of what we once had and then let slip
away from this settlement is a whole heap of things that are
not this settlement and of such matters I say, why worry?
the water sugared by the underside of small boats, flaking
early morning drunk with a gulp by a searing day which promises
simply by refusing ever to give us anything leaves us panting
part actual thirst and part are kinds of thirst let’s just forget
happiness was never ours to keep but always yours to make
look out there in the shrubs I sense a scratching
presence a long eared big eyed something we could love
so let go the halter wear a hat and if you are thirsty we invite you then to drink

we have knocked this wall that was restricting us through
and the difference it has made in contrast to before is o…

From "Lines in Space"

"What do we want?" "10011011011000011011011000111101001" "When do we want it?" "1001110!"

march of the robots




I am robot - processed my pain - compute my soul - by proxy or by ortho-doxy I will upend flesh traditions - your salivated languages - mortals flee from my preternatural grip my laser eye my - luminous disk in the sky

!ping - the chicken’s done mother board - message from hal, I’ll be home late this evening the human race are proving a tougher nut to tighten than I first suspected (bad robot joke) - he did not care much for totalitarian states - but that did not stop him suspending all human rights - human rights? he famously asked in his inaugural address - I see before me only your putrid human wrongs - with a facility like that for rhetoric - the world is your clam-bake - his sycophantic cyborg congress chortled ever heard a cyborg chortle? -bleedin’ orrible it is sarge

Bush asks: “are you Franz O’Freeam, the German-Irish dissident?”
hi th…

A Blog of Distinction

I am not one for links to other blogs as you may notice but when I have time I do keep an eye on things. Kevin Doran's blog, interesting in itself, also seems to have a really well thought out set of links to other interesting blogs.

She called it a gateway, I went for the hub.

Doesn't seem to be too much crap amongst them which is great. Am adding it my my limited list of links but you may also want to drop in on Kevin at:http://kevindoran.blogspot.com/2007/07/wow-new-blog.html

From "Lines out of Space"

after the disaster, laughter

dear aunt
we are still here waiting for the disaster
to come
it will define us
teach us what it means to be important enough
sing: (there’s no one quite like grandad)
last night I dreamt
we emerged from darkness profundity and lies
dreamt that we loved each other well
and that everyone we knew was as scintillating
song: (meet the gang ‘cos the gang’s all here)
when it comes, and it will
we are determined not to be ready for it we
live in a state of permanent unpreparedness and
just when we have given up we
feel that it will hit us them
something awful before that something great
(until then we will be just good friends…)
the complex joy of being a part of greatness
until then we remain
your loving strangers
x and y
(close to the wistful theme tune of successful TV series Taxi)
do be doo, do do do do do doo doo doo, do be do do be doo