Breezeway Homage No. 3, “All benefited in some way.”

All benefited in some way. Susan Scheid (2015)

“All benefited in some way.” Susan Scheid (2015)

Well, not quite. Mickey Mouse seems a little the worse for wear, but I couldn’t resist including him. The collage pays homage to John Ashbery’s poem “Listening Tour” in the volume Breezeway. The title is quintessential Ashbery, reflecting his own lifelong “listening tour” of vernacular quirks he might put to use. The poem dips into a past I recognize, recalling an argument about network news channels that wouldn’t occur today. The poem then offers two delectable “turns” and closes with a slangy shrug.

I haven’t captured my visual response to the poem to my satisfaction (will I ever for any poem?), but as perfection is the enemy of, if not the good, at least the impulse to make, I offer it up to view. In the course of it I may have learned something, by trial and error (primarily error), about the trickiness of glue, proper balancing of elements, and difficulty of obtaining clean edges, all of which converged to confound me, particularly, in the lower right section of this collage.

Listen to John Ashbery read Listening Tour here.

Listening List (what I happened to be listening to at the moment)

Maurice Ravel, Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) Suite (1908-1910; orchestrated 1911)

On Spotify: Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra/Myung-Whun Chung

Chung and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony was chosen as the Monthly Orchestral Selection in BBC Music Magazine’s August Issue (David Nice, reviewer), so I thought I’d see what the same forces accomplish with the Ravel. My verdict? Lovely, delicate, all I might wish for in a performance of this piece.

On YouTube: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic/Edward Gardner

Program notes about the Suite may be found here.

The five pieces in the Suite are listed below, together with timestamps for the YouTube video.

0:00    Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty)
1:38    Petit Poucet (Tom Thumb)
5:25    Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes (Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas)
9:10    Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (Conversations of Beauty and the Beast)
14:15  Le jardin féerique (The Enchanted Garden)


Credits: The text in the collage is from Ashbery’s “Listening Tour.” The image and underlying collage, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.


9 thoughts on “Breezeway Homage No. 3, “All benefited in some way.”

  1. Mark Kerstetter

    I like the words you picked out for this one, and there’s a nice circular movement to it. First time my eye traveled clockwise, second counter clockwise. I like the way those fields of blue talk to each other, both backdrops of a sort to the tumbling, flying, falling movements.

    I like Ashbery’s reading of this one at Kelly Writers House–I think you were there for that one, in Feb 2013? Funny to end the poem with that “whatever”.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: I WAS there, yet I hadn’t recalled that he read this poem! Needless to say, I’ve now added his reading in the side bar and the post. Thank you so much for alerting me to that. Your comments in response to the collage are both generous and useful. I’m finding that, whether I succeed or fail, it doesn’t altogether matter; the effort offers me a wholly new and pleasurable way to relate to these poems.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: I’m sure this isn’t an idea original with me, but even if it were, I’m delighted that it might inspire you to create your own visual responses to poems, which I know, given your keen visual sense, will be a delight. May your August be beautiful, as well!

  2. shoreacres

    I laughed all the way through the reading of the poem. Like Mark, I was particularly amused by his ending with, “Whatever.”

    Even better was his use of the phrase, “we segued.” I heard that not as an expression of a seamless transition, but as a direct reference to the Segue electric scooters — I had a mental image of them fleeing the avalanche on their Segues. I looked and looked at your collage, to see if you’d added one, and then I realized that perhaps I’d been too literal. But I still like the image.

    1. shoreacres

      I just listened again, and found another laugh: Segue is, or at least was, one of those “smaller, independent companies.” Unfortunately, the British fellow who acquired the company a few years back died after plunging his Segue over a cliff and into a river. I’d love to know which kind of Segue Ashbery had in mind. Maybe both.

      1. Susan Scheid Post author

        shoreacres: I absolutely love the association to the Segue, which was a new one on me–though I wouldn’t be surprised if Ashbery was aware of it. Your image of folks fleeing an avalanche on their Segues guarantees I’ll never read this poem again without that image coming to mind!

  3. David N

    Think I need to read the poem before hearing it being read – there are some poets who are born readers, others who put you off, no idea which one Ashbery is but I’m sure the former since you put the link there. Love your response, whatever it embodies.

    Always disappointed when conductors and orchestras opt only for the suite rather than the complete Ma mere l’oye, though I know the ballet came later. It’s one of my all time favourites and a must for any concert with Bolero and/or La Valse also in it – the full range of Ravel in a nutshell. We’re going to see the even more adorable L’enfant et les sortileges at Glyndebourne on Saturday for J’s birthday (partly…)

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: One handicap in posting these collages is that, as the book is new, only the audio of this poem and text of one other are available online. I suspect you wouldn’t be keen on Ashbery as a reader, and don’t suspect you’d be so keen on the poems, given our past exchanges on this. He came along at just the right time in my life, so I have particular affection for him and for his work. (He was, in a way, my saviour after years of tedious lawyer-think.) On the music, you know, I’ve never heard anything but the Suite, and I’m now in the process of correcting that. Interesting to see that Ravel composed, then orchestrated, the Suite first, then expanded the piece into a ballet. I assumed the converse would have been true. Anyway, the ballet is lovely, and not so much longer, so I’m surprised that the Suite is what’s generally performed. Enjoy Glyndebourne, as I know you will!

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