• csalisbury
    2.2k
    The full book of poems, one stanza at a time. I won't comment; I'll just post a stanza a day. Ideally, people will interpret the poem, but it's ok if not. I'm posting in the general philosophy category because I think this book fits that. Posting around 10pm tonight, but going forward, I'll post each new stanza at 7pm or so. I'll ask, if anyone actually becomes interested, to limit interpretation to what has been posted so far.

    First poem "As One Put Drunk Into the Packet Boat"

    Stanza 1:

    I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
    Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
    Filters down, a little at a time,
    Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
    As the sun yelllows the green of the maple tree....
  • Brett
    1.9k


    I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.csalisbury

    Of all the things I’ve tried, followed or thought about, there were only a few true answers, a few revelations about life to help.

    Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
    Filters down, a little at a time,
    csalisbury

    Otherwise it’s not much if a life. Is there more than this?

    Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
    As the sun yelllows the green of the maple tree....
    csalisbury

    Waiting for some revelation, some point to it all. Discontent. Life is passing by.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    I can't parse the title to make sense. The best I can come up with "Much like one is put into a packet boat when drunk".

    Line 1: If I try some thing, it is not living, it is dead material. Therefore can it be immortal? Sure, they all are, only living things can die. And free? Of what? Price? Moral freedom of a thing? I can't conceptualize that, esp. of things that you can try. For instance, I try opening a lock. Is this immortal or mortal? Is it free or not free? The concepts can not be applied to things, is my objection.
    Line 2: elsewhere we are. So we are not in a packet boat? Where are we?
    Line 2: "as sitting in a..." needs an explanatory clause. "As we grow older, we become wiser." "As the sun set in the west, so does the moon rise in the east." There is no such conclusion in this sentence. This is disturbing me, this un-English structure.
    Lines 2,3, and 4: semantics dictate that we are waiting for someone; the syntax says sunlight is waiting for someone to come.
    Lines 4 and 5: hopefully we'll be enlightened why harsh words are spoken, between whom, (who precisely it is who is sitting elsewhere, and whom are they waiting for -- all mysteries at this point, but I am sure an explanation follows) and why;
    Line 5: I wish there will be a good reason for being, an integral working part, in the poem for the sun light as it breaks through the leafs and makes its presence known.

    ------------

    Sorry to be so negative-sounding. My words are sincere. I don't know whether you wanted meritful words from a literary critic, or from a philosopher.

    There is such a thing as a poetic licence, and as such, very bad English is allowed in poetry. I understand that and I accept that.

    There may be personal references, and / or references that are explained later. I only go by what is in front of me. In fact, the OP asked her readers to do that. "I calls them as I sees them", and I understand that my current objections may be defused at a later point.
  • Noble Dust
    3.6k


    I like the mix of past and present tense. That's a problematic thing I've been wrestling with for years in poetry/song lyrics that I write; every time I consciously do it, the sense I'm trying to express gets lost. It might be incidental here, but it was one of the main things I picked up on, other than the near-perfect rhythm.
  • frank
    4.6k
    tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
    Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
    Filters down, a little at a time,
    Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
    As the sun yelllows the green of the maple tree....
    csalisbury

    Eating hors d'oeuvres at a party, "immortal and free" is how some of them tasted.

    The sunlight is the feeling of being drunk, or how being drunk alters the environment in the same way getting good or bad news can change the way the world is colored.

    "Waiting for someone to come" is what it's like at a party where you're suspended, arrested. Life is on hold.
  • unenlightened
    4.4k
    As... — Ashbery

    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof is immortal and free.

    'Elsewhere', the examined life is seen as drunk; the looming self and distorted world of the convex mirror. Elsewhere, in the examined life, mortal and unfree, this packet of self never simply is but always is as -as if - never the one, always the waiting - for Godot or some(other)one. Harsh words of being to self, or of poet to portrait. The world is re arranged around the looming face peering out of the porthole of the packet boat. There is a helplessness in the inevitable distortion of a point of view the world reflected in a bubble. This poem is a speech bubble in which you might see yourself or not.
  • tim wood
    4.1k
    In one sense a poem is like a piece of music. It's for an auditor; one hears and attends to it, listens to it. The function of the words to establish the key, bear all the melody, harmony, counterpoint, and so forth. And the educated and attuned ear is an exquisite tool for the job. But the ear neither writes nor composes. Its function, then, to judge, even by pleasure and enjoyment if warranted, that created by cruder tools.

    Making the crude creations suitable and ready for the ear is usually a work of refinement tempered by time and experience. As music, the words the notes, none should be discordant or out of place, and each word contribute and add to the flow of the thing as a whole. Inasmuch as the appreciation of poetry is an appreciation of the meanings of the words both severally and then jointly, each word must be weighed and judged: at the very least the sense of them ought to work and contribute to the overall structure of sense and meaning - purpose - of the whole.
    I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
    Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
    Filters down, a little at a time,
    Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
    As the sun yelllows the green of the maple tree....
    csalisbury
    The word "elsewhere" is for me a stumbling block. I'd prefer "else," meaning "otherwise." The scene I hear as a reflection by Odysseus, returned from Hades, anticipating a sentiment mouthed by Mephistopheles in Faust almost 2500 years after the Iliad and Odyssey were set down, but of the sense certainly original in neither. In paraphrase, that this world is hell, nor are we out of it, but all we can do is live actively in seeking.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    stanza two :

    So this was all, but obscurely
    I felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages
    Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.
    New Sentences were starting up. But the summer
    Was well along, not yet past the mid-point
    But full and dark with the promise of that fullness,
    That time when one can no longer wander away
    And even the least attentive fall silent
    To watch the thing that is prepared to happen.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
    Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlight
    Filters down, a little at a time,
    Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,
    As the sun yelllows the green of the maple tree....


    Too drunk/inept to deliver a message, too inattentive to write a poem, to listen to the muse, even though she is present, but not completely heard. Sometimes there were moments of clarity. The poet angry at himself, the muse, the world. Time wasted. Waiting for inspiration.

    So this was all, but obscurely
    I felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages
    Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.
    New Sentences were starting up. But the summer
    Was well along, not yet past the mid-point
    But full and dark with the promise of that fullness,


    So there had not been much produced. Drunk as I was, inattentive as I was. But something new stirring. New lines, words, ideas. After waiting so long, working the poems dead at birth. Now they start coming to the surface, more alive now, growing.

    That time when one can no longer wander away
    And even the least attentive fall silent
    To watch the thing that is prepared to happen.


    When the muse appears. When she can no longer be ignored. When the poem begins to take shape.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    1. "New breath in the pages" -- creative juices are starting to flow.

    2. "New Sentences were starting up" -- the sentence-bubble. Sentence upstarts, with lots of people investing big money in sentences. Perhaps signifies the monetization of his poetry, what with the Pulitzer prize and other cash awards.

    3. The dark summer... but it WAS dark, the whole summer. I haven't noticed that the sun was dark, but hey, I am just a loser poet. Two buts in one sentence, not good form, but he got the Pulitzer prize, you gotta admire that.

    4. You can't wander away... and everyone, even the least attentive, shut up. Because something is going to happen. It's about time. Until now it was gibberish, but a guy who can make big money with gibberish is America's darling. You can, everyone can interpret something into nothing, you can take any jumbled and nonsensical string of words, and admire it by giving it meaning with blood, sweat and toil. And the guy laughs all the way to the bank, with no talent, nothing to say... he runs on his own reputation, and he can get away with murder, by forcing gibberish for poetry down your throat, and enjoying every fucking minute people shit out admiring words... because it's fun. I have to admit, he knows something I don't.

    -----------------

    Appreciating American poetry is a bit like interpreting the bible. The source document does not make sense, so you beat sense into it by imagining there is sense, and analyzing it for any clue of truth. You twist its words, like that of the Bible, you shut your eyes to not see the contradictions, you do your best to give meaning where there ain't none.

    In the meantime, millions of honest, hard-working poets die of starvation and exposure, poets who write honest, good, rhyming poetry, whose works are overlooked, because this bastard, this untalented drunkard niemand, this fake of a crowd-pleaser hogs all the money.
  • Nils Loc
    558
    Sounds like Ashbury is just reflecting upon his creative process.

    Trying to achieve what works
    Gleaning bits of inspiration
    Waiting for something with the body of a spirit
    The critic speaks
    As draft edits yellow the green leaves

    This is probably wrong and unsophisticated but oh well.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k

    Nils, did you actually understand the poem was saying these things? Would you have come up with these interpretations, if you haven't read the interpretations by others of his first two stanzas?

    Honestly, now, no cheating.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    Stanza 3 :

    A look of glass stops you
    And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?
    Did they notice me, this time, as I am,
    Or is it postponed again? The children
    Still at their games, clouds that arise with a swift
    Impatience in the afternoon sky, then dissipate
    As limpid, dense twilight comes.
    Only in that tooting of a horn
    Down there, for a moment, I thought
    The great, formal affair was beginning, orchestrated,
    Its colors concentrated in a glance, a ballade
    That takes in the whole world, now, but lightly,
    Still lightly, but with wide authority and tact.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    So this was all, but obscurely
    I felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages
    Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.
    New Sentences were starting up.


    The waking of a poem; a metaphor for his life; the fake poet, not a poem, waking up to the truth.

    But the summer
    Was well along, not yet past the mid-point
    But full and dark with the promise of that fullness,
    That time when one can no longer wander away


    Time was moving relentlessly. Evidence of ‘that time’ to come, no more faking it.

    And even the least attentive fall silent
    To watch the thing that is prepared to happen.


    Everyone will see it, the inevitability, the truth.

    A look of glass stops you
    And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?


    A mirror image of myself, is that really me.

    Did they notice me, this time, as I am,
    Or is it postponed again?

    Did others see the real me, not the man in the street, but the fake poet?
    Or is the moment put off, again? Did I get away with it again?

    The children
    Still at their games, clouds that arise with a swift
    Impatience in the afternoon sky, then dissipate
    As limpid, dense twilight comes.


    Though nothing’s changed, things are the same, no one noticed. I still hide, as I always have, but for how much longer?

    Only in that tooting of a horn
    Down there, for a moment, I thought
    The great, formal affair was beginning, orchestrated,


    For a moment I thought something was happening, some connection with reality, the moment, life, this dance,

    Its colors concentrated in a glance, a ballade
    That takes in the whole world, now, but lightly,
    Still lightly, but with wide authority and tact.


    A moment revealing the world, the world itself, stealthily, skilfully revealing itself like a poem, the real poem I’m after.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    A look of glass stops you
    And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?
    csalisbury

    What glass? And who is doing the looking: the alleged "poet",or the person behind that glass? Unclear, unexplained, meaningless straffle.

    Did they notice me, this time, as I am,
    Or is it postponed again?
    csalisbury

    Oh boy. The Big Ego. Do people notice anyone as he is? Even people in the focus of limelight don't get to be known precisely for how they are really. This "poet" expects too much. Narcissistic boob.
    The children
    Still at their games, clouds that arise with a swift
    Impatience in the afternoon sky, then dissipate
    As limpid, dense twilight comes.
    Only in that tooting of a horn
    Down there, for a moment, I thought
    The great, formal affair was beginning, orchestrated,
    Its colors concentrated in a glance, a ballade
    That takes in the whole world, now, but lightly,
    Still lightly, but with wide authority and tact.
    csalisbury

    A tooting of the horn makes this deluded person maxed out on self-adoration think some festivities are starting, at the first few signs of the evening arriving.

    --------------

    This stanza is more concrete and coherent than the second one, which was more concrete and coherent than the first one -- the signs of alcohol consumption and being under the influence of a mind-altering substance are dissipating.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    4th, penultimate, stanza:

    The prevalence of those gray flakes falling?
    They are sun motes. You have slept in the sun
    Longer than the sphinx, and are none the wise for it.
    Come in. And I thought a shadow fell across the door
    But it was only her come to ask once more
    If i was coming in, and not to hurry in case I wasn't.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    The prevalence of those gray flakes falling?
    They are sun motes. You have slept in the sun


    The voice of the muse. They’re not grey flakes, you fool, but the sun. How could you mistake them?

    Longer than the sphinx, and are none the wise for it.

    Despite the sun/light and time for learning you are none the wiser. You confuse gold with grey. You’ve wasted your time. You’re not worthy.

    Come in. And I thought a shadow fell across the door
    But it was only her come to ask once more


    He invites her in but she refuses. She is here again with the same question. No shadow, no materiality, nothing real enough to his deadened senses. He is unimpressed. She is less than expected or desired, but here she is again. She’s unimportant in his eyes. He’s ignorant.

    If i was coming in, and not to hurry in case I wasn't.

    Are you ready? Make up your mind. You’re not yet ready, not aware enough, knowledgeable enough of the world before you. You're no better than a drunk stumbling through the streets. You’re no poet.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    final stanza:

    The night sheen takes over. A moon of cistercian pallor
    Has climbed to the center of heaven, installed,
    Finally involved with the business of darkness.
    And a sigh heaves from all the small things on earth,
    The books, the papers, the old garters and union-suit buttons
    Kept in a white cardboard box somewhere, and all the lower
    Versions of cities flattened under the equalizing night.
    The summer demands and takes away too much,
    But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    The night sheen takes over. A moon of cistercian pallor
    Has climbed to the center of heaven, installed,
    Finally involved with the business of darkness.


    Stillness, heaven: bliss, perfection, eternity, rest, where gods reside. The moon and the business of darkness; finally a connection with the subconscious world, the hidden meanings, the secrets, truth. The moon enters the darkness, penetrates like a pure word. This is how it works.

    And a sigh heaves from all the small things on earth,
    The books, the papers, the old garters and union-suit buttons
    Kept in a white cardboard box somewhere,


    Memories, feelings, the past, everything you are. The sigh, a connection, relief, love, things that belonged, pleasure, the end of waiting. Is it love?

    and all the lower
    Versions of cities flattened under the equalizing night.


    The word reducing everything in stature, importance, relevance. Revealing inconsequential things for what they are,

    The summer demands and takes away too much,
    But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes.


    The greedy, egotistical mind takes and takes, leaves nothing, devours, eats up everything. The night, as in love, gives more, asks for little from the lover. Still so far away, though, the distance from earth to moon.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    I'm breaking my own rule a little bit, but just a quick note on the first poem. The poem's title, I've learned from the internet, is also the first line of another, much older, poem - Tom May's Death, by Andrew Marvell. There, it's a metaphor for death. (I believe he's talking about shanghaing, when vulnerable (e.g. drunk) people would be kidnapped and brought out to a ship, forced to serve as sailors. So the metaphor is a major transition that one is unconscious for. In one realm, then suddenly waking up in another.) I think it's interesting that this poem can be read as about 1. artistic creation 2. love 3. ego or 4. death and each one seems to work.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    Poem 2 : "Worsening Situation"

    Stanza 1:

    Like a rainstorm, he said, the braided colors
    Wash over me and are no help. Or like one
    At a feast who eats not, for he cannot choose
    From among the smoking dishes. This severed hand
    Stand for life, and wander as it will,
    East or west, north or south, it is ever
    A stranger who walks beside me. O seasons,
    Booths, chaleur, dark-hatted charlatans
    On the outskirts of some rural fete,
    The name you drop and never say is mine, mine!
    Some day I'll claim to you how all used up
    I am because of you but in the meantime the ride
    Continues. Everyone is along for the ride,
    It seems. Besides, what else is there?
    The annual games? True, there are occasions
    For white uniforms and a special language
    Kept secret from the others. The limes
    Are duly sliced. I know all this
    But can't seem to keep it from affecting me,
    Every day, all day. I've tried recreation,
    Reading until late at night, train rides
    And romance.
  • Brett
    1.9k



    ”Ashbery said he wished his work to be accessible to as many people as possible, not a private dialogue with himself.” Wikipedia

    He didn’t try very hard did he?
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    I can't speak for Ashbery, I'm just posting the poems.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    No, but speak for yourself maybe.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    Hit me up on direct messenger. For various reasons, I've decided not to comment on the poems on this thread (I did break that rule once, but I'm trying to stick to it in general.) But I'm down to talk about this stuff through direct messenging.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    Poem 2 : "Worsening Situation"

    Like a rainstorm, he said, the braided colors
    Wash over me and are no help.


    The poet said, like a rainbow there’s too much to take in, to deal with. I can’t grasp hold of anything. I’m lost.

    Or like one
    At a feast who eats not, for he cannot choose
    From among the smoking dishes.


    So he goes hungry, no sustenance from the world, no poems to be made. There’s nothing there for him despite the plenitude.

    This severed hand
    Stand for life, and wander as it will,
    East or west, north or south, it is ever
    A stranger who walks beside me.


    A writer’s hand that doesn’t work any more. A hand free to do as it wants, but not what I want.

    O seasons,
    Booths, chaleur, dark-hatted charlatans
    On the outskirts of some rural fete,
    The name you drop and never say is mine, mine!


    O people, the world, you throw my name, the poet, around without thought of me. What do you care, what do you care of poetry?

    Some day I'll claim to you how all used up
    I am because of you but in the meantime the ride
    Continues. Everyone is along for the ride,
    It seems.


    You wore me out, used me, took everything, Nothing changes. Everyone takes. I can’t do it.

    Besides, what else is there?
    The annual games? True, there are occasions
    For white uniforms and a special language
    Kept secret from the others.


    But what else can I do but keep on trying to write poetry. It’s the same old things. Sometimes I lose my way, or think I’ve found a way, my mind, I get lost, the things I thought, seek help, diagnosed as sane, cured, then back to it.

    The limes
    Are duly sliced.


    You have to take the bitterness with everything else, the good with the bad.

    I know all this
    But can't seem to keep it from affecting me,
    Every day, all day. I've tried recreation,
    Reading until late at night, train rides
    And romance.


    I know nothing changes, I know this is how it is. I keep busy, But I have sleepless nights, obsessions, worries. Nothing helps.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    Second, final, stanza:


    One day a man called while I was out
    And left this message: “You got the whole thing wrong
    From start to finish. Luckily, there’s still time
    To correct the situation, but you must act fast.
    See me at your earliest convenience. And please,
    Tell no one of this. Much besides your life depends on it.”
    I thought nothing of it at the time. Lately
    I’ve been looking at old-fashioned plaids, fingering
    Starched white collars, wondering whether there’s a way
    To get them really white again. My wife
    Thinks I’m in Oslo—Oslo, France, that is.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    One day a man called while I was out
    And left this message: “You got the whole thing wrong
    From start to finish. Luckily, there’s still time
    To correct the situation, but you must act fast.
    See me at your earliest convenience. And please,
    Tell no one of this. Much besides your life depends on it.”


    He’s got everything wrong, everything he’s done, which is write poetry. Of course he can’t talk about it, can’t afford to admit it. What could be more important to the writer than his life? His work. It was wasted effort, failure, and he didn’t listen to the message.

    I thought nothing of it at the time. Lately
    I’ve been looking at old-fashioned plaids, fingering


    He ignored the message. The situation remains the same because he didn’t care, didn’t see the problem. He had a high opinion of his work, he believed his own publicity. But he knows deep down.

    Starched white collars, wondering whether there’s a way
    To get them really white again.


    Now he wonders if he can get back what he lost. But it’s too late. Only starch makes the collars white now. They’ll never ever really be white again.

    My wife
    Thinks I’m in Oslo—Oslo, France, that is.


    He lives in a place that doesn’t exist, something he made up. He’s living a lie.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    Late on account of the Superbowl, but new poem, name of

    Forties Flick

    Stanza 1:

    The shadows of the Venetian blind on the painted wall,
    Shadows of the snake-plant and cacti, the plaster animals,
    Focus the tragic melancholy of the bright stare
    Into nowhere, a hole like the black holes in space.
    In bra and panties she sidles to the window:
    Zip! Up with the blind. A fragile street scene offers itself,
    With wafer-thin pedestrians who know where they are going.
    The blind comes down slowly, the slats are slowly titled up.
  • csalisbury
    2.2k
    2nd, final stanza :

    Why must it always end this way?
    A dais with woman reading, with the ruckus of her hair
    And all that is unsaid about her pulling us back to her, with her
    Into the silence that night alone can’t explain.
    Silence of the library, of the telephone with its pad,
    But we didn’t have to reinvent these either:
    They had gone away into the plot of a story,
    The “art” part—knowing what important details to leave out
    And the way character is developed. Things too real
    To be of much concern, hence artificial, yet now all over the page,
    The indoors with the outside becoming part of you
    As you find you had never left off laughing at death,
    The background, dark vine at the edge of the porch.
  • Brett
    1.9k


    Forties Flick

    Stanza 1:

    The shadows of the Venetian blind on the painted wall,
    Shadows of the snake-plant and cacti, the plaster animals,


    Bright light/sun. The desert, L.A. Los Angeles noir and Edward Hopper. Period piece. Raymond Chandler. No real animals. Snake plant, plaster animals. Illusion. Exotic locale. A movie set.

    Focus the tragic melancholy of the bright stare
    Into nowhere, a hole like the black holes in space.


    Movie camera, beam of light, single eye that consumes all.

    In bra and panties she sidles to the window:
    Zip! Up with the blind. A fragile street scene offers itself,
    With wafer-thin pedestrians who know where they are going.


    Opening scene. Undressed woman at the window. Cut to the street from her POV. She looks down on a set. Images only. Not real, no substance, almost shadows. Actors being directed, scripted.

    The blind comes down slowly, the slats are slowly titled up.

    End of movie.
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