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Showing posts from September, 2007

Ashes to Ash (end)

Redemption, Limits and Swallows Whilst Ash investigates the redemptive power of the elegiac poetic process, Ashbery’s poem is based on the aporias discovered at the outer edges of this process, or what might be called the limits of poetic thinking. Derrida describes the aporia thus: “Paradox, scandal, and aporia are themselves nothing other than sacrifice, the revelation of conceptual thinking at its limit, as its death and finitude” (Derrida, The Gift of Death 68). What is the limit of poetic thinking? “Fragment” suggests that the edge of the conceptualisation of poetic language is that of the consciousness which, according to Ashbery, controls everything else: “My power over you is absolute. / You exist only in me and on account of me” (Ashbery 79). And yet this consciousness, as the trope of the fragment suggests, can never be encountered in full, and its paratactic accumulations and distributions of the fragments of this self emanate from a vacated subject centre. The combination s


Ode (kinda) to John Ash when will the world look and see John Ash writing alone on those Anatolian shores his pen poised as his judgements are hesitant to drop to mark a make yes like a kestrel conscience hung above matter's vole our curiosity too needs to pounce just as poiesis must first eat, stuff way before it can ever move to make, oh when will John Ash see and look the world and in shining on its already faded rugs & drapery he saved the very thing he saw and caused to fade? Seems Ash's newest collection has caused a minor surge in interest in this most reclusive of writers. See the comments on Sonnets at 4am for example: This includes a poem from a much earlier collection The Burnt Pages . He also has his own Wikipedia page which no longer amazes me as everyone seems to: )

John Ash, "To The City"

Found this online from Ash's newest collection which I haven't yet seen. It is, as all of Ash's work is, deceptively simple, seeming first off to simply present a scene in lineated prose, then the prosody makes its gentle presence felt, and finally matters of metaphysical import take possession of your consciousness. As Peter Campion says in his lovely littel review of the poem: "The poem blends absence and presence, dream image and naturalistic reality. Like those shoes at the doorway, Ash dwells (in this poem and in all his work) in a borderland. By living there he maintains a state of desire, an intensified engagement with feelings as fragile and surprising as the ghost of poplars he sees in the city towers. " To the City The village has come to the city. In the narrow street, in the crowd pressing down it, in the faces of tall buildings we plainly see the shimmer of poplars in the emptiness of the plateau, the huddle of houses from which the voices of families

Ashes to Ash (3)

Ashbery and Ash: The Harp and the Cave Ash’s poetry works on how he can cite the past in poetic language and thus redeem it, without reducing the rubble of its current state of ruination to a kind of gothic theme-park testifying to the permanent presence of absence in our lives. In “Scenes from Schumann” he again comes up against the artefact and the ruin: “The urns showed well against the blue of the river, / and beyond them, the ruins of the old insane asylum, / covered in leaves...” (Ash 156). Here the urn, traditional tropic centre of the transformation of absence into presence thanks to Keats, is not so much juxtaposed ruins as placed on top of or against them, which is a means of imposing an artistic unity onto actual ruination. This is the aporia of the non-redemptive monument. However he then goes on to undermine this: “the words / took off like birds from our lips, to circle an absence // that couldn’t be named without turning the feast to ashes. / Not that the talk died. No,

Ashes to Ash 2

John Ash, Melancholic Historian The semantic paradox at the heart of elegy makes it a prime site for the investigation of a semantics of absence, namely the construction of a monument to absence whose monumental presence, in consoling the mourner, actually ends the process of elegy and destroys the very presence of absence the monument was meant to preserve. Ash seems sensitive to this basic paradox in a work like “The Monuments” where a fictional community commit themselves to an endless process of building monuments even though, “The Monuments meant nothing of course” (Ash 134). The reasoning behind this is melancholy, “Each year the monuments grew larger / The citizens demanded this. As their lives got worse they wanted / longer staircases to descend, towering fountains...” (Ash 133). In the poem the role of art is to “take the place / of events too unbearable to discuss” (Ash 134), a classic formulation of the consoling power of the elegiac monumental utterance: to produce a reifie


Forgive me bloggers for I have sinned. It has been a month since my last Blogfession. Personal circumstances of a glorious kind, holidays, work and a blizzard of emails has kept me from THE BLOG. Seemingly there is more to life than pasting and writing things that no one cares about in real life (i.e. poetry) and yet which they will log on to read about on my blog. Anyway no apologies as what would blogging be without living interposed between? Mere blogs about blogs I surmise. But am back on the case now. So where were we, oh yes, about John Ash...