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Can You Hear, Bird
ISBN: 978 1 857542 24 0
Categories: 20th Century, American, Gay and Lesbian
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: February 1996
216 x 135 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Meanwhile, back in
soulless America, people are having fun
from 'You Would Have Thought'
After John Ashbery's 216-page poem Flow Chart (1991) and the munificence of Hotel Lautréamont (1992) and And the Stars were Shining (1994), Can You Hear, Bird provides an A to Y of poems, moments in which voices, images and tones come in for Ashbery's wily attentions. The poems are generally short. But when we get to T, 'Tuesday Evening' occurs. Tuesday evenings are long in Ashbery's America. This Tuesday begins in tight rhymed quatrains; as the evening extends, the verse relaxes to elicit and swallow up more and more, until only rhyme pins together the abundance of impulse and reflection. An ars poetica seems to emerge:
An alphabet is forming words. We who watch them
never imagine pronouncing them, and another opportunity
is missed. You must be awake to catch them —
them, and the scent they give off with impunity.
We all tagged along, and in the end there was nothing
to see — nothing and a lot. A lot in terms of contour, texture,
world. That sort of thing. The real fun and its clothing
Ashbery's urbane imagination remains subject to time's encroachment and the heart's vagaries. 'He is quite simply the finest poet in English of his generation,' The Times said.
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