. . . as you realized once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
[Just Walking Around]
I was lost. It’s not uncommon. It looked like Locust Walk, but though I walked on and on, the place I was looking for was nowhere to be seen. I approached a student, a really nice guy. An MBA candidate, well qualified to set me straight. “You’re walking parallel to it. I’m going your way, so come with me.”
He made concrete the phrase “retrace your steps.” We walked back and back, to where I’d started out, then pointed the way. The streets are named for trees, and they run in order of hardness of the wood, he said. Somebody really gave this some thought. (He admired good planning.) Guess I’d better learn my trees, I said.
. . . you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try
To tell us we are:
Al Filreis: Yesterday you had the experience of a room full of twenty-year olds reciting from memory a poem you wrote when you were twenty, Some Trees . . . Do you remember the guy who wrote that poem? . . . What kind of distance is there, what kind of de-familiarization is going on when you look at your early work?
John Ashbery: Well it’s all very strange to me. . . . It’s really weird to be this old and to be communicating with people of younger and young ages and to realize that one never really imagined how this was all going to play out, just realizing that it has, somehow.
The young man was a joint major, MBA and nurse. I used to represent community health centers, and I knew how valuable he could be. More to the point, I could speak his language, at least a little. An excellent skill set, I said. It’s great you’re doing this. Yes, he said, I want to help places like that use their assets to best advantage. That’s terrific, I said. Your help is needed.
That’s what I’d hoped for, too, when I started out. I had a skill set: I could decipher mind-numbing contracts and byzantine regulations. I could draft them, too. I was apparently a born negotiator, relentless in my pursuit of wringing accommodations from those not used to being questioned. To my counterparts across the table, I was unfailingly pleasant. I made lots of friends in order to get things done.
You who are always right about everything, come fight us. You will not
be destroyed, nor will your berm shield you from our javelins. . . .
In those days, I didn’t know about John Ashbery, but I carried a poem by Wallace Stevens everywhere I went. I kept a copy in my wallet and tacked it up on cheesy partitions and fancy office walls. Throughout, one constant remained: I wasn’t enamored of being an employee. Why can’t these people content themselves with saying what they want and leave the how to me? “The imperfect is our paradise,” Stevens reminded me.
When I opened my practice, I had many masters, and therefore none. I didn’t need Stevens’s poem so much anymore. I went on my way, changing “assure” to “require” hundreds of times a day. I called it “shoveling the shit” off the sidewalk so my clients could get to work. My brain settled in a groove. I didn’t think about whether I liked the work or not. The work wasn’t likeable: that wasn’t the point. The point was to serve those who made a difference in the world.
Though the law is at best a Rube Goldberg device, it lays claim to a straightforward logic. It believes that, if you go to a, then b, then c, if you don’t swerve, but stay on its narrow path, you’ll get to z. Cause and effect, deductive logic, all of that.
These then were some hazards of the course,
Yet though we knew the course was hazards and nothing else
It was still a shock when, almost a quarter of a century later,
The clarity of the rules dawned on you for the first time.
Even after I closed my practice, my brain remained in its groove. Only a Dickinsonian splinter would be able to swerve it from its path. But where would it come from? What would it look like? How would it feel? I followed path after path from a to b to c, but nothing worked.
Thanks to my student-guide’s fine navigational skills, I found Locust Walk. Kelly Writers House was right where I’d left it on my first visit. I was back now to hear John Ashbery read and talk about his poems.
When I first encountered Ashbery’s poetry, I couldn’t fathom how to read it. But I believed in Mark Kerstetter’s impassioned praise of him, so I persisted, as is my way. Phrase after phrase collected in my head. Among the first were these:
Hasn’t the sky?
The day was gloves.
The phrases were mysterious, but resonant. They didn’t end in thought, but opened up a dream.
I discovered that reading Ashbery’s poems completely subverted my ability to think in a straight line. My brain was flummoxed, of course, and settled back in its groove at every chance. I kept reading, trying to decipher what the poems meant. I seized on a word, that shape-shifting “it” in On the Empress’s Mind, for example. I tried to follow the trail of “it,” but “it” kept wandering off.
. . . Is it any help
that motorbikes whiz up, to ask for directions
or colored jewelry, so that one can go about one’s visit
a tad less troubled than before, lightly composed?
The Ashbery reading and talk were to take place shortly after a blizzard hit the northeast. The night before I was to leave, Amtrak advised my train had been cancelled. I booked another. It would be tight to make connections, but I’d leave the house early. Or so I thought.
The morning of departure opened in “wintry mix.” Words of dread. Even if the trains were running, I couldn’t get to them. I changed my reservations once again. It was going to warm up. I’d still have time, I hoped.
It was a strange sort of errand. Ashbery, after all, lives in New York City, an hour and a half in travel time, rather than five or six. Doubtless, he’d be reading in New York City again, too.
What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is no name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. . . .
I don’t want to call Ashbery venerable or think of him as an icon. He’s too alive, too full of mischief, to be set in such dour stone. But it was important to me to be present. I had to get to Philadelphia in time. Even though New York City is where Ashbery lives, Kelly Writers House is, for me, his poetic home.
Before the reading, I read and re-read Ashbery’s new book, Quick Question. I longed for guidance, for a critic’s commentary, or at least a quick question to help me find my way, but this time I was on my own. I kept on, trying to stop my mind from applying straight-line logic to read the poems.
The poet Ron Silliman related a story of a student who read some poetry strange and new to her. She kept reading and re-reading, unpersuaded. At about the eighth re-reading, though, the poems opened up to her.
Best not to dwell on our situation, but to dwell in it is deeply refreshing.
I knew what Silliman meant. It’s not easy to get my brain out of its groove, but it’s rewarding: to dwell in Ashbery’s poems, rather than on them, is “deeply refreshing” for me.
Filreis: Do you want to respond to Susan’s suggestion that you taught her how not to go in a straight line?
Ashbery: Well, I apologize. [laughter] I guess I’ve encouraged a lot of deviant behavior in my writing. Since, as you may have gathered, I don’t think in a straight line or with a purpose and kind of let things happen to me and at the same time giving them a nudge or a swift kick. So this does produce a sort of zig-zag effect in my life and art, which I’m okay with, since I believe that things are meant to be like that.
As I walked around in Quick Question, I made unlooked-for discoveries on every page. No morals, no neatly tied-up narratives, but life itself, as lived.
. . . The balloon is ascending
above ferns, teacup chimneys, striped stockings.
So long training wheels. I’m gone for three weeks at a time.
Filreis: I’ll try it one more time. [laughter] The quantitative people are attacking the qualitative people. In Soonest Mended, that problem of adjustment, it’s such an anthem for saying, you know, it’s okay, we should never graduate from college, the best kind of maturity is a constant immaturity, and that sort of thing. You do this a lot, so would you say that you’ve made a space for yourself as a non-quantitative person, I guess I would say? I assume you like that space, and you would encourage others to do so. Can I get you to say anything about that?
Ashbery: I wouldn’t want to encourage others to do it. [laughter] Well, I don’t know, I always seem to be writing from a kind of remote point in my history, back in college or something, and being surrounded by a crowd of like-minded friends, and that’s us, we are the world, and both apologizing for it and defying anybody to find anything wrong with that. I was just thinking for a minute about the rest of [Soonest Mended] . . . “barely tolerated, living on the margin in our technological society.” That’s the way I’ve always felt, and as I’ve gotten older and continued to feel that way and nobody has really called me on it, I’m feeling sort of brave and virtuous, I suppose, although still scared.
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there, and mystery and food.
Come see it. Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
[Just Walking Around]
To hear Ashbery read and discuss living on the margin in relation to Auburn-Tinted Fences and Soonest Mended, click here. To hear Ashbery discuss not thinking in a straight line, click here. To hear Ashbery discuss Just Walking Around, click here. To hear a complete audio of the 2-11-13 reading and 2-12-13 interview, click here and scroll down.
While I might be more inclined to associate Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote or Till Eulenspiegel with John Ashbery’s poems, I’ll stick with music on which Ashbery himself has commented.
John Tranter: While I was speaking with John Ashbery, I asked him which composer he particularly liked.
Ashbery: The composer Arvo Pärt . . . I have very eclectic tastes in music. He happens to be an avant-garde composer of the moment whose work has become very successful. It has a very sort of spacy quality, I suppose you would say. But it’s much more than that; it’s not what is now being called New Age music, although there are perhaps things in it that would appeal to people who like that sort of music. It’s very dreamlike, ethereal music, mostly, and music that almost inevitably causes you to reflect and lose track of the music itself.
Selections from Arvo Pärt on Spotify may be found by clicking here.
Postscript: For walking around in Ashbery’s poems, here are two great lists: Al Filreis’s list of “64 indispensible Ashbery poems” may be found here. Mark Kerstetter’s list of “my favorite Ashbery poems” may be found here. Blog posts by Filreis, which contain several links, including links to video and audio of Ashbery’s February 11, 2013, reading and Filreis’s interview with Ashbery on February 12, 2013, may be found here and here.
Credits: The photograph of Ashbery is by Al Filreis. (Filreis is, among other things, the Kelly Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House.) The Filreis/Ashbery exchanges are my transcriptions of excerpts from Filreis’s interview with Ashbery on February 12, 2013. A video of the entire interview may be found here. The Tranter/Ashbery exchange is my transcription of an excerpt from a recording for “Radio Helicon, hosted by John Tranter, ABC, June 19, 1988,” and may be found here. The entire recording and many other audios of Ashbery readings and interviews may be found on PennSound’s Ashbery page here. The quotation from Wallace Stevens is from The Poems of Our Climate, which may be found here.
The excerpts from Ashbery’s poems are from the poems noted in the text. I have linked to the complete text or audio to poems to the extent they are available on the web (the link to The Skaters is of the first-ever reading of this poem, in 1964). The poems mentioned in the text may also be found in these books, as indicated: Collected Poems1956-1987 (Just Walking Around, Some Trees, Soonest Mended, Clepsydra, The Skaters); Notes from the Air, Selected Later Poems (On the Empress’s Mind); Quick Question (Auburn-Tinted Fences, Homeless Heart, A View from the Fireplace).
So the difficult journey was definitely worth the effort.
I still know very little of Ashbery’s work or about the poet himself. To spend time at a retreat to listen to the poet read and to be able to delve deeply while being guided by by those whose understanding is profound must be an utterly stimulating and satisfying experience.
You have given me an inkling of what the outcome of the trip was for you.
PS: The ‘embarrassment of being unable to find’ seems to be over.
Friko: So great was this experience that I’m now on a quest to try and locate the rest of his books (only some are fully collected). You with your Brecht, me with my Ashbery, the best kind of pursuits! (So pleased the “unable to find” is over.)
I would like to leave a comment as beautiful as this post but it’s impossible. Here, together, is who I consider to be the finest living writer in English and the finest living composer. We are very, very lucky to be living at a time when these two artists are working. And the fact that I turned you on to one and you turned me on to the other is also beautiful. I actually didn’t know that Ashbery was so fond of Pärt, but it doesn’t surprise me. I had read long ago what his musical tastes were like. By the way, he was my introduction to Puccini. One of his poems is entitled ‘Turandot’. I thought what a strange name that was. ‘Turandot’ has become my favorite opera, and Puccini another of my favorite composers. I can see why you would pair his poetry with Strauss’s ‘Eulenspiegel’, with its playful, chattering, wandering quality. To my way of thinking, Ashbery’s more adventurous work corresponds, in musical terms, with some really out there “free” music that I’m very fond of, but strongly suspect Ashbery would not like at all.
I’ve watched both Kelly House videos, and will no doubt watch them again. Ashbery seems generally to be befuddled and quite reticent, but when you transcribe what he actually said, as you have done here, his remarks are very cogent. I can’t help but think that some of Filreis’s questions – and indeed yours – put him in a quandary. I have the feeling that, above all, he did not want to betray the spirit of his poetry, and that he seems to feel that sitting there and explaining it or even talking about it in more than an anecdotal way would just be a bore. He just wants to leave the adventure up to the reader. His attitude here reminds me very strongly of Thelonius Monk’s. His way of answering/not answering is, I think, profound and warm and charming. I get the feeling the best way to talk to him is to talk about the trees, if you get my meaning. ‘Wow, look at those trees!’ Another thing I want to go back to are the poems he read at the end of his reading. If I’m not mistaken they are new, unpublished (I haven’t read his new book yet). In the last one the last word is “whatever” – used, apparently, the way it is commonly done these days (a rather bad habit, I think). It’s just like him to turn that into poetry.
I love the way you pieced this together and especially appreciate that you’ve made your personal story a part of it. Thanks, Sue. I might also comment on the passage regarding reading a book multiple times to allow it to sink in. True, there is such a thing as trying too hard, but I have learned the lesson many times: some things take more work, and they’re worth it.
P.S. My recent Ashbery post was my list of favorites. I took the post down because I felt that I was only doing it in response to Filreis’s list, and that didn’t feel like a good reason. But knowing there is one person, at least, interested in my list, I’ll put it back up.
Mark: Thank you for ALL this: your comment here, the door to Ashbery you opened up, the sharing we’ve done along the way–and last not least, your wonderful list, which I’ve started in on already. I do hope the second volume of collected works comes out before too long, for many of the post-1987 poems you and Al note aren’t in Notes from the Air. I’ve begun a search to get the individual volumes–found two more today.
I agree with your sense that Ashbery, in responding to questions, “did not want to betray the spirit of his poetry . . . [and] wants to leave the adventure up to the reader.” Beautifully stated. I’d listened to several of the PennSound audios beforehand, was aware of this issue, and struggled with how to ask him about the “non-straight line” without asking a question “about” a poem. I didn’t succeed (amazing how hard it is to ask a question that doesn’t ask “about”), but on that one, Al saved the day, and I loved what Ashbery said in response.
Re the last two poems (I think it was two), you’re right, they’re not in Quick Question. I hope they will become available soon if they’re not as yet.
Last not least, though you couldn’t be there in “fact,” you were certainly there in spirit. Thank you again and again.
Where do I begin? It’s amazing how the world is sometimes – I was just listening the other day to Pärt’s Como cierva sedienta. I also saw Al’s e-mail. And then to find them all here, in your post – it’s just marvelous, really.
Anyway – I love Pärt. I love the narrative in his music, and how it all feels. It’s just so…deeply spiritual. It’s like – it lifts you up, the music, but also goes outside your body and rises above you, and then falls down gently, covering you like a blanket or a cloud. (I cringe at my description but I don’t know how else to describe it!) He and Philip Glass immediately come to mind when I think about contemporary composers that have really touched my soul. I am so, so grateful to him for Spiegel im Spiegel, which means a lot to me.
I was also surprised to know that Ashbery liked him, too. What a wonderful connection.
I liked reading your story about getting lost, retracing your steps, then finding the place where you’re meant to be at. I think that’s how it is with me, with poetry, most of the time. Getting lost in the reading, trying to find meaning, going back and forth, until I finally understand it. Also: getting lost in my silly little life, not knowing where to go, or how to be, or why I am doing the things that I am doing in the first place. Then I open a book, I read a poem, and I find myself there.
I appreciate Ashbery’s honesty and candidness. I remember one of the very first discussions in ModPo, I think it was a TA (Kirsten?) who said that life isn’t lived linearly, so why should what you write be linear, too?
Thank you for this, Susan. I felt like I was there. I hope to visit you (and the Kelly Writers House!) someday. Until then, there we have this space.
T.: I like the way you describe Pärt’s music. And this I love too: “Then I open a book, I read a poem, and I find myself there.” You demonstrate this again and again in your posts, BTW, and I love how you do it. I, too, am glad we have this space, yet also hope that one day we’ll all congregate in Philly, too. Wouldn’t that be the best?
+1 to Pärt. I got my first introduction to him (and to modern music in general) at Ravinia in Chicago many, many lifetimes ago (I may have still been in high school). I don’t remember which piece was on the program, but it was one of his secular pieces for orchestra, with baby toys, etc. I brought a date to the concert. I loved the piece. She hated it. She dumped me not long after. I think it was more than a fair trade.
Mark S.: You had me laughing out loud with that one! I’m curious to know your reaction to Ashbery’s work, BTW. And here’s a ModPo style question for you (which you may blithely ignore): does the form of this post support its content, and, if so, in what way?
Um, uh., um… granular synthesis?
I need to read me some Ashbery. Been spending too much time playing with noisy electronic toys.
I still remember the look on her face when the orchestra started squeaking the baby toys: something akin to “What the hell is this, and what was wrong with you that you brought me here?”
How’s this for starters:
Thanks for the inspiration!
I won;t blithely ignore the question, but I will blithely put it off until I get home from work :)
OKay, I’ve got back to your question. The form here is prose- meandering prose, jumping from one topic to another (Ashbury quite, to Locus Walk, to Al, etc), in a meandering walk through the journey away from your practice (your brain in its groove) and to where the splinter brought you- with a little Arvo Part thrown in for good measure. As you say- “Just Walking Around.” In that way the form fits the function.
And I still need to read me some Ashbury.
Mark S. +10!! I don’t think I could have described the form/function better than this. In fact I’m sure I couldn’t. Bravo! (Interesting how often Ashbery is spelled Ashbury. Sound over spelling, could it be?) As you read Ashbery, don’t forget Al’s and Mark Kerstetter’s lists of poems. I’m finding them a great guide into the work.
Can’t wait to do it. Today I am doing battle with a leaky water heater. The water heater is winning.
Did I misspell his name? *hanging head*
Dear Susan, Thank you thank you thank you. I was heartbroken not to get to the reading, and seeing the two videos and following them with your journal and all its stitched in links is a marvelous gift. I, too, got lost the first time I headed to the Kelly House, though I attended Penn back in the Dark Ages. I’m listening to my first Parvo now, the Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten. Thrilling work. I’m going back to the emails, as I dropped out of the group after Christmas break. By the way, Stevens is my favorite modern poet
Ellen: The Cantus may be my favorite work by Pärt. So glad to share this with you. Stevens, BTW, is a favorite of mine, too, though I’m sure based on much less depth than in your case. I am sorry you weren’t able to get to Philly–all the more reason to get together in New York, which we will do.
How delicious to find you opening a window on to your past and working methods, since I believe you don’t often talk about yourself in a narrow sense here. Unfailingly pleasant you always are, and more, though rigorous like what I read of John Ashbery. Losing readers, you said over my way? Surely not. You must be gaining the kind of ones you want all the time…it’s not the number, it’s the quality.
Arvo as Ashbery’s choice I heartily applaud, of course. A long way from our bete noire Mr Glass.
David: Ah if you knew how far from rigorous I am! But it’s true, as I’ve noted elsewhere, I do like to follow the trail of something that piques my interest, as in St. Anthony to Mahler to Berio, or Don Quixote, from Cervantes to Strauss, or finding the Julietta chords, or. . . well, you get the idea, I suspect. Re Pärt et al., it is interesting, isn’t it, how very different the so-called minimalists are from one another. I hadn’t listened to Pärt in a while, and, though I’ve been absorbed in very different kinds of music since then, it was a pleasure to return to his music (even though old Till E. came to more readily to mind when thinking about Ashbery’s poems–not to mention when meeting the poet himself).
dear dear Susan, I am so glad that you were able to attend – to share your bounty with us who are fortunate to know this lovely place of ‘dilemma’. I type this whilst listening to Part (cannot fashion proper a) whom I always equate with a CD I discovered as a music seller at B&N – it has a red background with two white flowers (I never looked for its name until just now on Google -Fratres- which ironically is the one I listen as a I type) – Fractres beauty is a beautiful encore and reminder that one is blessed to surround the mind with artist: you, Ashbery, Part, Kerstetter, etc..
I had seen Al’s posts on my reader with hopes to visit the recordings, to Finally read the book of selected poetry which houses so many mentioned by Filreis of Ashbery. Now, there is nothing to stop me but time. Time which forever seems fleeting, yet at the end of each day I sit and wonder where it has all gone. You are lucky, my friend, for perhaps life is easier to follow the a without the swerve – when we zig we sometimes get lost in the zag and then we cannot even see the beauty of things, of trees. Thank you for this post, it has reminded me why one still needs to take time, to breathe, to read – poetry ~ a
angela: Well, on the subject of Just Walking Around, your own poetic version (may I call it an homage to Ashbery?) is simply marvelous. I can only stand in awe and commend it to other readers by providing a direct link: http://yellowhousecafe.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/an-abyss/
Susan, What wonder-filled insight this piece gives! You walk with purpose, yet are so light on your feet. I appreciate the disclosure of your brain’s groove, and your search for a possible sliver that could persuade it otherwise. “To dwell in Ashbery’s poems, rather than on them” clearly seems your beginning – you have found your watercourse way. More of this, please! Elizabeth
Elizabeth: I love the idea of a “watercourse way.” Beautifully stated, and I’m so pleased you enjoyed what you read here.
Hi Susan .. a commitment to attendance – a concrete phrase … I’d love to understand (more doesn’t even come into it) .. but I’m here … I forgot the music at the end – but now have it on …
I loved the idea of the paths being named after the hardness of the woods – I’m sure one of your least relevant parts of the post …
However other much more erudite commenters understand for which I’m so pleased … and they’ve left such pertinent comments … cheers Hilary
Hilary: I loved finding that out about the hardness of the woods, too. And it was relevant, in the “Just Walking Around” way, for I immediately associated it with Ashbery’s poem “Some Trees.” Everything connects, and nothing does . . . just depends on your point of view, doesn’t it?
Susan, I’m picking up threads and what a great place to begin.
Ashbery I am not so familiar with, and strangely next month there is a (full) Part Concert for which I hadn’t planned to make the effort and I now find myself searching for tickets. So here I am thinking about how he thinks, and how you think, and obviously, how I think, which is your message, surely. I think It is extremely difficult to be aware of how one thinks; it sort of is. Until it changes I hear you say, as you have changed, although once a lawyer, always ..?
I need more patience, to stay with the poet, the poem. Perhaps that’s it, the time allocated to the thought. I’ve been trained for repeated rapid decision making of a serious kind. Slow me down poem, slow me down.
wanderer: I will definitely look forward to your report on the Pärt concert if you get there. What a fine serendipity that would be! I love the way you put this, and agree: “I think It is extremely difficult to be aware of how one thinks; it sort of is.” It’s really having been exposed to this new-fangled poetry that made me aware how trapped my mind was in its groove. As for changing/being the same: the good news is that I wasn’t born a lawyer, so perhaps there is a chance for redemption! I am reminded of a story I read in the New York Times that I should have saved (even google hasn’t been able to track this one down for me). A woman who had a goat farm and made some very swish sort of goat cheese decided to move on. Her explanation was that she “wanted to nourish other parts of her self.” I just loved that. Your closing line is definitely a keeper, too: “Slow me down, poem, slow me down.”
I was especially taken with “Just Walking Around”. I had to laugh at the way the poem loops upon itself, starting and stopping and then starting again in precisely the way of looping thought.
In the realm of pure fancy, this is what I “see” in his imagery”: the world itself, the globe, being peeled like an apple or orange, long strips of experience falling away until at last the segments “fall open like an orange” and we’re freed to taste what’s been there all the time, waiting.
Clearly, Ashbury’s a gunkholer. At least, he appreciates and can express the urge. Remember my grumbling about his poetry? Now, at last, I have one perfect poem to enjoy, a path to take as I begin poking around in his work.
I nearly forgot. I think you’ll enjoy this piece from the 2009 NY Times about the concept of a “block-a-thon” . It’s a unique version of “just walking around”.
shoreacres: The block-a-thon piece is wonderful! And, particularly as the goat cheese article I wrote about to wanderer is lost to the four winds, I’m particularly impressed that you had this 3+ year old article at your fingertips and thought to post it here.
shoreacres: Gorgeous description–and, to boot, you’ve taught me a great new word: gunkholer. Talk about the perfect word to describe Ashbery’s work–there it is! I am happy as can be that you have found one perfect poem to enjoy, in return. This one is a beauty, and the credit goes to Al Filreis for bringing it to everyone’s attention. May you enjoy gunkholing around.
For those, who like me, didn’t know the term, here’s the first paragraph from Wikipedia:
“Gunkholing is a boating and sea kayaking term referring to a type of cruising in shallow or shoal water, meandering from place to place, spending the nights in coves. The term refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes, sloughs, and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes. While not necessary, gunkholers typically seek out the serenity of isolated anchorages over the crowds of marinas and popular bays, and a minimal draft is preferred, since gunkholers tend to go as far up and into the gunkholes as possible, seeking ever more inaccessible destinations.”
(shoreacres’ blog has the subtitle, “A WRITER’S ON-GOING SEARCH FOR JUST THE RIGHT WORD.” Need I say more?)
That’s funny that gunkholes are mentioned here. I had that in a poem for the first time about 5 months ago. Brilliant essay. I just love the way it is constructed. A very artful use of language.
Paul: How nice of you to write! Gunkhole is a great word, isn’t it? I’m so pleased, not to mentioned honored, that you thought well of the essay. I had a lot of fun writing it, and hoped it might convey at least a bit of my own experience of Ashbery. That I may have succeeded in some small measure is a wonderful thing!