Breezeway Homage No. 1, “not everyone sees it” (The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend)

"not everyone sees it," Susan Scheid (2015)

“not everyone sees it,” Susan Scheid (2015)

The collage is a visual review and homage to John Ashbery’s poem “The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” in his new collection, Breezeway. For a far more cogent response to Breezeway, read Mark Kerstetter’s typically perceptive commentary here.

The title of the poem comes from a 1906 silent film. (Per the commentary accompanying the video, “The Carport Theatre has taken this silent classic and added period music and audio effects from their vast library of sounds.”)

Listening List

The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, performed by the Edison Military Band

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Credits: The quotations may be found at the links indicated in the text. The text used in the collage is taken from the poem. The collage and its photographic image, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.

12 thoughts on “Breezeway Homage No. 1, “not everyone sees it” (The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend)

  1. shoreacres

    This post is a delight. Overall, my sense is that you’ve been off to Summer Poetry and Music Camp, and brought home your crafts project.

    I don’t mean that to be dismissive at all. You’ve picked up on the sense of play that Mark’s post made so clear. I can take or leave the silent film, but your collage and the piece by the Edison Military Band click nicely together. If I play that Edison clip one more time, I might march around the room, myself.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: Summer camp, I love that. And it may amuse you to know that, in driving over to the art supplies store to pick up a couple things, I passed a sign for “Poughkidsie” (http://www.poughkidsie.com/) and thought, why do kids have all the fun (though you’ll note the program is for kids and adults, as it turns out). I’ve had in mind to try another Ashberian-inspired collage (well, any collage) since the year of the flood (more precisely: http://prufrocksdilemma.blogspot.com/2011/06/alice-in-ashberyland.html), but hadn’t got round to it . . . and of course there is a small impediment beyond my own procrastination in our house who goes by the name of Nesreen the Cat. And, indeed, the minute I opened one of the magazines, scissors at the ready to snip a choice image, N the Cat leapt on the desk, arrayed herself voluptuously across the open magazine, and began playing with the glue stick, among other paraphernalia on my desk. (I, too, BTW, wasn’t at all keen on the silent film, though I enjoyed the backstory–the cartoon on which it was based, what sort of mind landed on an idea like this!–finding that march. And then, of course, there is Ashbery’s mind, choosing this as the title of his opening poem in the collection. As to that, a poetically perceptive friend wrote of the collage elsewhere: “Your collage reminds me of the sardines that are absent from that painting. Not a grilled cheese in sight, because it isn’t about rarebit.” (The reference is to Frank O’Hara’s Why I Am Not A Painter. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/why-i-am-not-a-painter/)

  2. Curt Barnes

    Well, if it’s a crafts project, it’s better than anything *I* ever did at camp! An unexpectedly delightful visual, Susan, and a complement not only to Ashbery’s latest but to an early favorite, his “Daffy Duck in Hollywood” (with apologies to Donald, employed by a different studio). As to that latest, I have to find it, now, since somehow Ashbery’s forays into pop reference work for me. Thanks for the alert.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: Well, that’s quite the compliment–though something tells me I’d best not quit my day job (if I had one, that is)! Daffy Duck in Hollywood is such a great poem, I’m including a link to it here: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/daffy-duck-hollywood. I think Mark Kerstetter has caught the essence of the new book. Like Quick Question, Ashbery’s last book, the poems are all short. What strikes me above all about Breezeway is his playfulness. Reading the poems inspired me to go play myself, which is always a good thing!

  3. Brigitta “Britta” Huegel

    Dear Sue, thank you! It is very interesting – and – as I’m always looking for the little details – I muse about the cornflake box, it looks old to me (what I read about the inventor of the cornflakes, the owner of it all, made me stop wanting to eat any; he wasn’t a nice person). The chairs look very lovely – but I’m still looking for the broken pearl.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: Yes, you’re definitely right about Kellogg–not a nice fellow at all! To set your mind at ease, you’ll not find a broken pearl per se, but in my search for images and background effects, I did look for and included things that might suggest a pearl in fragments (but of course “not everyone sees it”–and that could be because it’s not there . . .).

  4. Mark Kerstetter

    Hi Sue. I’ve been mostly offline lately and didn’t see this when you posted it. The film is based on a comic strip from 1904 to 5:

    http://www.comicstriplibrary.org/browse/results?author=2&page=1

    The schtick seems to be a crazy dream from overeating, an experience anyone who is lucky enough to be in the position of overeating has experienced at one time or another. (I gotta say though, as someone into healthy eating, that I learned long ago not to consume rich or stimulating foods in large quantity too late in the evening.) I read that the film launched techniques that became standard. Even so it’s not as amusing as the comic strips.

    Interesting way to launch ‘Breezeway’. It reminds me of the phrase “embarrassment of riches”, as if Ashbery has accumulated all this stuff in his life and he’s just kind of shuffling through it all, throwing things over his shoulder as he goes…. Oh, and here’s that old…. and look at this…. forgot I had that one….

    I love your response to this book and I hope you’re inspired to make more collages. This might be Ashbery’s most bricolage-like book, and I can’t think of a more beautiful response. And to include pieces of the poems–it really works. Please use some good glue, not the kind that will turn everything brown and brittle in a few years.

    Some of your images–especially the corn flake box–look vintage. I think that’s totally Ashberian, that idea of mixing pop images from yesteryear as well as today. I don’t know when he first encountered the rarebit cartoons, but whenever it was they were already “old” in terms of popular culture (they came out in 1904 and he was born in 1927). When I first purchased an online service one of the first things I looked up was audio readings by Ashbery. I found some from the early sixties. They were poor quality and sounded old. And the internet was a new thing to me. I had an experience listening to them that I would describe as uncanny. Ashbery seemed to have foreseen the new consciousness, if I can call it that. it was like seeing a very old photograph of something that you thought hadn’t been invented until decades later. Something fresh from something old. That’s part of the Ashbery sensibility. I totally get that in your collage.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: Thanks so much for the link to the comic strip–I had read the film was based on it, but didn’t hunt it down. (I agree that, notwithstanding the film innovations, the comic strips have more to offer.) I really enjoyed making the collage, have since made another, and hope this time I will continue on (point noted on the glue, and I definitely have to upgrade what I’m using; haven’t figured that out as yet). I’ve been reminded by this of the pleasure to be had in doing something so concrete and tactile, and the Breezeway poems do particularly seem to inspire collage-making, whether it be in words or another form.

      Your comment that it’s “as if Ashbery has accumulated all this stuff in his life and he’s just kind of shuffling through it all, throwing things over his shoulder as he goes…. Oh, and here’s that old…. and look at this…. forgot I had that one….” strikes me as absolutely right and offers another layer of resonance for me, too. When, long ago, I posted the first (and at that point only) Ashbery-associated collage I’d made, you wrote in your comment, “Now, will we be seeing more collages?” That was the summer of 2011, and look how long it took for me to give it another go! So, finally, I went back through all the “stuff” I’d stored up to make collages then and since, not a lifetime’s worth (though in a way it feels like it) and had much the same feeling as you describe of Ashbery with these poems. I’ve resolved to try and keep my internal critic out of the way, and in what I think is also an Ashberian mode, just play.

      As I think on what you wrote about Breezeway, and on my own experience of the poems so far, while they don’t offer what my impression is only the longer poems can give–the way threads of meaning weave their subtle way into the larger tapestries–I sense in the poems a relaxed bemusement that is wholly earned and the pure pleasure of making for its own sake.

  5. Mark Kerstetter

    Not to ramble, but I think there’s something unique in ‘Breezeway’s’ approach to this sensibility. It’s there in the penultimate line of the Rarebit Fiend poem, in the sweet disorder of that unusual distinction between a “lurid sky” being “just one thing, or under certain conditions definitive.” Really makes you think about the categories of being just one thing and/or being definitive. Something about the way the mind is turning in its attempts to bring out a piece of art–could be just a bad dream, but then again maybe something will come of it.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: Ramble all you want (though I actually don’t think your added comment is in the least a ramble). I was also struck by that the line you quote–and, in fact, now that I look back on it and what you state here, what have we? Well, it seems he’s threaded in a bit of insight in this very short prose poem. It’s that ability he has to stop one’s mind in its tracks and consider anew. (That whole sentence, actually, is fully-loaded.)

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Kyle: You are too kind! It is fun, and part of an ongoing effort to suppress too much “left brain” activity. Very hard to achieve.

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