And the Stars Were Shining by John Ashbery

By John Ashbery

Witty but heartbreaking, conversational but richly lyrical, John Ashbery's 16th poetry assortment showcases a mastery uniquely his own.

And the celebs have been Shining initially seemed in 1994, towards the midpoint of a startlingly artistic interval in Ashbery's lengthy profession, within which the nice American poet released no fewer than 9 books in ten years. the gathering brings jointly greater than fifty compact, jewellike, intensely felt poems, together with the well known "Like a Sentence" ("How little we all know, / and after we recognize it!") and the lyrical, deeply relocating thirteen-part name poem famous as one of many author's maximum. This assortment is Ashbery at his such a lot obtainable, swish, and elegiac.

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Example text

Being a social poet is all about translating negative social conventions into positive fictions, artfully playing at goodness, making light vers of the bouleversements of société. What’s led to this change of heart is suggested by a deeper, truer sense of that formulaic ‘I’m afraid’.  / The time is shorter now for company’. Writing in solitude by the lamp brings now ‘Not peace, but other things’, not only that ‘failure and remorse’ which stand ‘Beyond the light’, but ‘other things’, which, in not being specified, become a frightened euphemism – like renaming the Furies the Kindly Ones.

Indb 35 18/09/2007 14:39:17 On the Edge of Things: Philip Larkin else’ – the indeterminate pronoun turning any putative ‘loved one’ into a mere conventional counter in an abstract and programmatic narrative. The concluding preference is for an ‘Uncontradicting solitude’, for ‘there cautiously / Unfolds, emerges, what I am’. The poem’s dialogue has been entirely internal, between the self as second person, ‘what / You are alone’, and as first person, ‘what I am’. When you’re talking to yourself, of course, by definition there’s no one to contradict you.

That key phrase, ‘elected nothing’, wobbles between ‘not electing anything’ and ‘electing nothingness’. This is not very different from ‘Vers de Société’, except that in the latter the time is shorter, the consequences of acceptance less life-threatening, and the final choice to say yes, rather than no. And the aloneness is no longer the verbless, untalkative dialogue figured by ‘I and you now, alone’. ‘Vers de Société’ is, however, most centrally, a reprise of and response to ‘Best Society’ (p.

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