Breezeway Homage No. 2, A Fountain in the Street

A Fountain in the Street, Susan Scheid (2015)

A Fountain in the Street, Susan Scheid (2015)

The collage takes its name from the poem “A Fountain in the Street” in John Ashbery’s newest collection Breezeway. Ashbery prefaced the poem with an epigraph from the poet Larry Fagin. I’ve been unable to find the poem, but its title, “Content Is a Glimpse,” likely refers to a comment made by Willem de Kooning: “Content, if you want to say, is a glimpse of something, an encounter, you know, like a flash – it’s very tiny, very tiny, content.” The collage does contain a fountain and visual allusions to fountains, but offers overall only a glimpse of the content of the poem.

Listening List

Carl Nielsen, Serenata in Vano (1914; for clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello, and double bass)

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For more about Serenata in Vano, click here.

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Credits: The text in the collage is the title of the Ashbery poem to which the collage relates. The collage and its photographic image, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.

12 thoughts on “Breezeway Homage No. 2, A Fountain in the Street

  1. Mark Kerstetter

    I love it. (the Nielsen is wonderful, too)

    That’s one of the curious-er poems in the collection. As Victoria pointed out to me, I wonder if he’s confusing the Badger State with the Land of 10,000 Lakes? I’m curious about Larry Fagin now. The poem is a tiny glimpse of richness, fullness.

    I love that de Kooning quote. He’s one of my favorite artists, and he said many quotable things.

    That almost marble-like texture in the middle of your collage is also almost fluid-like–like a glimpse of a flowing liquid frozen, which echoes the closed or dead fountain in the poem. Overall, the collage has a kind of chiseled-in-stone quality. Flowing lines or shapes are closed off before they can be rerouted. Some of de Kooning’s paintings have a similar feel. He loved water, loved watching it, loved watching the ever-shifting play of light reflecting off it.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: It is a curious poem, isn’t it? I don’t think it rises to one of my favorites in the collection (I’m still working my way through, so haven’t really decided on that), but it somehow caught my attention for trying my hand at a collage. (I’m finding it quite interesting to put my mind to responding to the poems visually–and I’m also learning, in the process, how much there is to know about gluing things down properly!)

      In the case of this poem, the epigraph and the de Kooning quote (which was new to me) really caught my attention, along with the first two lines of the poem. For one, “content is a glimpse” seems to me very much allied with what Ashbery does in his poems. Beyond that, your description of the collage is a marvel to me–I see, from what you so beautifully state, that you have captured what I was responding to, but I surely couldn’t have put words to it. I was, indeed, responding to Ashbery’s own startling juxtapositions (a “dead” fountain, meadows that “aren’t open”).

      This poem also reminded me of a comment someone made on your blog about Ashbery’s poems to the effect that the elements are like stepping stones, and sometimes the stones can be too far apart. Often times, in Ashbery, though I can’t articulate why, I sense the flow of associations as I read along. In this poem, however, I respond to each stanza as a separate, unrelated train of thought with little or no connecting tissue to bind each to the next. The last stanza is a particular mystery. I love the image he portrays, which I respond to as evoking a scene somewhere in rural China. The reference to the Badger State, however, has me utterly stumped!

  2. shoreacres

    Your collage is nicely done: interesting and evocative. I wish I had the poem at hand, despite your remark that the collage “offers overall only a glimpse of the content of the poem.” I found the text of “Breezeway,” but not of this one.

    I went back to read the New Yorker review, and found something else that interested me a bit. The reviewer says, “Before I looked it up, I figured that “Auroch” was a parody of the fashionable names hipsters give to their children, but “Seven-Year-Old Auroch Likes This”—while it mentions “a Brooklyn family”—in fact refers to aurochs, an extinct variety of cattle.”

    Clearly, Dan Chiasson hadn’t seen “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” or he would have known about aurochs. In the film, it’s the film’s protagonist, six-year old Hushpuppy, who confronts the elements and the aurochs in the midst of a community of “antique mud wrestlers” — bayou people who wrestle against river and flood time and time again. “Beasts” was released in 2012, and this volume in 2015. It raises questions in my mind whether Ashbery might have seen and been impressed by the film, for one.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: I suspect you’re right on the money in re Beasts of the Southern Wild! (Re the poems online, I think Breezeway, the poem, may at this point be the only one. It’s certainly the only one I’ve found. Not surprising, as it’s a brand new book.)

  3. kylegann

    Susan, I didn’t know you do visual art. That’s a tremendously striking piece. I’m saving it on my computer.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Kyle: Needless to say, I’m flattered you think enough of it to save it. My visual art output is pretty small, to say the least, but I wanted a change of pace from things that require a lot of time behind a computer screen, so, after 4 years with materials sitting around waiting for me to do something with them, I decided to give this a whirl.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: Well, goodness, what can I say? Whatever the end result, It’s fun to try my hand at making collages in response to Ashbery’s poems. (Coincidentally, some of Ashbery’s own collages, including the collage that’s on the cover of Breezeway, are currently on display at Tibor de Nagy.)

  4. David N

    News to me, too: excellent work. Always love it when poetry and art collide – and music, of course. Hadn’t heard the Nielsen until the Berlin Phil soloists played it on the Southbank earlier this year. Like Sibelius, he rarely provides a dud even on a smaller scale.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: I, too, love it when poetry, art, and music collide–and converge, if I may add that–as they do in the best of opera, of course! The Nielsen was brand new to me (courtesy, I neglected to mention, of one of our members at GCAS). I so agree, a delight on a smaller scale. I can’t really fathom why Nielsen escaped my attention for so long.

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