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Notes from the Air
Selected Later Poems
ISBN: 978 1 857549 78 2
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, American
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: November 2007
257 x 176 x 17 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Try to avoid the pattern that has been avoided,
the avoidance pattern It's not as easy as it looks:
The herringbone is floating eagerly up
from the herring to become parquet. Or whatever suits it.
New fractals clamor to be identical
to their sisters. Half of them succeed. The others
go on to the Provencal floral prints some sleepy but ingenious
weaver created halfway through the eighteenth century,
and they never came to life until now.
It's like practicing a scale: at once different and never the same.
Ask not why we do these things. Ask why we find them meaningful.
Ask the cuckoo transfixed in mid-flight
between the pagoda and the hermit's rococo cave. He may tell you.
'Sonnet: More of Same'
In Notes from the Air John Ashbery selects his very best work from ten major collections, starting with the acclaimed April Galleons of 1988, and ending with Where Shall I Wander of 2005. This selection of Ashbery's later poetry is the sequel to The Mooring of Starting Out (1997), which brought together his first five volumes.
Ashbery has long been one of America's best-loved poets and always its most inventive. In Notes from the Air discloses the variety and wry power of his vision of language and of life. The poet has taken stock of where he has been, finding unexpected connections and continuities.
FROM APRIL GALLEONS (1987)
Riddle Me 5
A Mood of Quiet Beauty 7
Finnish Rhapsody 8
Alone in the Lumber Business 11
Someone You Have Seen Before 15
Becalmed on Strange Waters 19
The Big Cloud 20
Some Money 22
Wet Are the Boards 23
Offshore Breeze 25
The Ice Storm 26
April Galleons 30
FROM FLOW CHART (1991)
Section V 35
FROM HOTEL LAUTRÉAMONT (1992)
Light Turnouts 65
Autumn Telegram 66
Notes from the Air 67
Still Life with Stranger 69
Hotel Lautréamont 70
On the Empress’s Mind 73
The Phantom Agents 74
From Estuaries, from Casinos 75
Autumn on the Thruway 78
The Little Black Dress 84
Avant de quitterces lieux 85
In Another Time 87
Le mensonge deNina Petrovna 88
Korean Soap Opera 90
A Driftwood Altar 93
The Youth’s Magic Horn 96
Elephant Visitors 101
Just Wednesday 108
In My Way / On My Way 110
No Good at Names 113
In Vain, Therefore 115
A Hole in Your Sock 116
How to Continue 117
FROM AND THE STARS WERE SHINING (1994)
Token Resistance 121
The Mandrill on the Turnpike 122
About to Move 123
Ghost Riders of the Moon 125
The Love Scenes 126
Well, Yes, Actually 127
Mutt and Jeff 130
And the Stars Were Shining 134
from CAN YOU HEAR, BIRD (1995)
A Poem of Unrest 157
A Waking Dream 158
At First I Thought I Wouldn’t Say Anything About It 159
. . . by an Earthquake 160
By Guess and by Gosh 164
Can You Hear, Bird 165
Chapter II, Book 35 167
Dangerous Moonlight 169
Debit Night 171
Dull Mauve 173
My Philosophy of Life 174
No Longer Very Clear 176
Operators Are Standing By 177
Plain as Day 178
Sleepers Awake 180
The Faint of Heart 181
The Green Mummies 183
The Military Base 184
The Problem of Anxiety 185
Today’s Academicians 186
from TuesdayEvening 187
Yes, Dr. Grenzmer. How May I Be of Assistance to 195
You? What! You Say the Patient Has Escaped?
You Would Have Thought 198
FROM WAKEFULNESS (1998)
Cousin Sarah’s Knitting 204
Last Night I Dreamed I Was in Bucharest 206
Added Poignancy 207
Laughing Gravy 209
From Such Commotion 210
Alive at Every Passage 212
The Burden of the Park 213
Dear Sir or Madam 216
Discordant Data 217
Outside My Window the Japanese . . . 219
Probably Based on a Dream 221
Like America 223
The Dong with the Luminous Nose 226
Come On, Dear 228
FROM GIRLS ON THE RUN (1999)
Sections I, II, III, VIII, IX, XXI 233
FROM YOUR NAME HERE (2000)
This Room 249
If You Said You Would Come with Me 250
A Linnet 251
The Bobinski Brothers 252
Merrily We Live 253
Caravaggio and His Followers 255
Industrial Collage 257
The History of My Life 259
Memories of Imperialism 260
Redeemed Area 264
They Don’t Just Go Away, Either 266
Sonatine Mélancolique 268
Stanzas before Time 270
A Suit 271
Crossroads in the Past 272
How Dangerous 273
Lemurs and Pharisees 274
The Underwriters 276
Has to Be Somewhere 280
Strange Cinema 282
Fade In 283
Pastilles for the Voyage 284
Your Name Here 285
FROM CHINESE WHISPERS (2002)
A Nice Presentation 289
Disagreeable Glimpses 290
Theme Park Days 292
From the Diary of a Mole 293
The Lightning Conductor 296
I Asked Mr. Dithers Whether It Was Time Yet He Said Noto Wait 298
Chinese Whispers 299
In the Time of Pussy Willows 302
Little Sick Poem 304
Local Legend 305
Portrait with a Goat 306
As Umbrellas Follow Rain 307
Oh Evenings 313
Her Cardboard Lover 315
The Haves 316
Like Air, Almost 319
The Blessed Way Out 321
The Business of Falling Asleep (2) 322
Sir Gammer Vans 324
FROM WHERE SHALL I WANDER (2005)
Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse 329
Days of Reckoning 330
Coma Berenices 332
The New Higher 336
Interesting People of Newfoundland 337
Annuals and Perennials 341
Heavy Home 342
The Template 343
The Snow-Stained Petals Aren’t Pretty Any More 344
Sonnet: More of Same 345
The Love Interest 346
Where Shall I Wander 348
Index of Titles andFirst Lines 353
Awards won by John Ashbery Winner, 1997 Gold Medal for Poetry Winner, 2001 Wallace Stevens Award Winner, 1995 Robert Frost Medal Winner, 1976 National Book Critics Circle Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 National Book Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 Pulitzer Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror)
Praise for John Ashbery 'A fine collection of poems rooted in 21st-century America.'
Robert McCrum, The Observer
'More than a century after Arthur Rimbaud composed his Illuminations they are reborn in John Ashberyâs mangnificent translation. It is fitting that the major American poet since Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens should give us this noble version of the precursor of all three.'
'Quick Question, with the hushed intensity of its music and great lyric beauty, could only be Ashbery.'
Ian Thomson, Financial Times The book invites the reader to poetic gluttony. It serves as a corrective to the monoglot provincialism by which the Anglophone world is still bedevilled.
Sean O'Brien, Independent 'The lyrics in Breezeway, a new collection by the octogenarian poet John Ashbery are as good as his finest. I especially like the final poem, poignantly reprising the last line of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale', "Do I wake or sleep?"'
Salley Vickers, The Observer - The New Review, 29.11.2015.
'Praised as a magical genius, cursed as an obscure joker, John Ashbery writes poetry like no one else.'
'Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood: Ashbery communicates in a way that both pays homage to language and transcends it at the same time.'
'John Ashbery's Collected Poems 1956-1987, edited by Mark Ford (Carcanet), was a book I found inexhaustible. Possibly the greatest living English-speaking poet and one of the most prolific, Ashbery takes language to its limits, so that words serve as pointers to shifting experiences that elude description. Containing his masterpiece 'Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror', one of the most penetrating 20th-century meditations on what it means to be human, this collection succeeded in stirring my thoughts as well as delighting me.'
John Gray The Guardian Books Of The Year 2010
'The language of [John Ashbery's] books is informed by his roving enthusiasms for particular composers. His tastes are both eclectic and out-of-the-way.'
Michael Glover, 'A blue rinse for the language,' The Independent, 13 November, 1999
'The careering, centrifugal side of Girls on the Run is one of its most effective tools in creating its special ainbience of good-humoured menace ... Ashbery has made the slush of signification, the realm where words slip, slide, perish and decay, uniquely his own.'
David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement, 30 June, 2000
'In his seventies John Ashbery offers a sprightly and energetic alternative. Instead of being sluggish he demands that the self must be even more alert, more vigilant, more attentive to the world around it, not indifferent to and weary of it. Alert, vigilant, attentive ... Wakefulness, the brilliantly evocative title of Ashbery's collection.'
Stephen Matterson, 'The Capacious Art of Poetry,' Poetry Ireland Review 62, 114
'Harold Bloom regards [John Ashbery] as something akin to a genius...' -
Michael Glover, 'The poet as frustrated composer,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Independent, 14 August, 1998
'...Ashbery is still exuberantly dedicated to the truthful rendering of experience as a flow of sensations that defy interpretation. Consciousness is not so much a stream as a series of jump-cuts from one haunting or zany impression to the next. His best poems have a weirdly, intriguingly satisfying quality.'
Alan Brownjohn, 'Creating a sensation,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Sunday Times, 10 January, 1999
'Stemming in part from Mallarme and in part from Whitman, Ashbery's work creates a tension in which the fine networks of linguistic reverie are balanced by the strong sense of American tradition.'
Peter Ackroyd, 'Books of the Year,' The Times Literary Supplement, 4 December, 1992
'...an Ashbery [poem] does not stand on its own but floats off into the reader's limitless consciousness like a balloon. Balloons can be very beautiful, inspire longing and also make you smile.'
Grey Gowrie, 'Where the commonplace is wonderful,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Daily Telegraph, 5 October, 1996
'John Ashbery's distinctiveness as a poet paradoxically resides in his ability to evade all single identities; like Whitman, he feels most fully himself when he contains multitudes ... [Ashbery] deploys a staggering variety of dictions, ranging from fragments of novelettish narratives to lyrical dream-visions, from the cliché of public speech to scraps of surrealist collage...'
Mark Ford, 'Free-wheeling towards the abyss,' Times Literary Supplement, 27 December, 1991
'Notoriously hard to characterise, Ashbery's poetry has been likened to many things - a spiritual experience or an animated cartoon ... No poet's lines are more accommodating to other voices and idioms ... Like restless guests, his subjects arrive and mingle, don unlikely disguises and abruptly announce they are "off on some expedition"...Such poise lends authority to his "positive melancholy," makes even his excesses ... masterly, and ensures that The Ashbery remains the destination of choice, the place "where everything gets unravelled just right."'
Julian Loose, Book and Poetry Review section, The Guardian, 3 November, 1992
'The Mooring of Starting Out is filled with illustrations glimpsed through luminous, funny, formidably intelligent and often heartbreaking poems.'
Andrew Zawacki, 'A wave of music,' Times Literary Supplement, 12 June, 1998
'John Ashbery is probably the most highly regarded living poet in America ... The "story" element in Ashbery comes over in fragmented and non-consequential ways, but the fragments have a strong power of visual evocation, and a startling precision of outline ... His focus is on a bravura artifice, a depersonalised surface crackling with "possibility," a brilliant randomness in which analogy with Action Painting asserts itself with special force...'
Claude Rawson, 'A poet in the postmodern playground,' Times Literary Supplement, 4 July, 1986
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