At Hippy Hollow, near Austin, Texas

It used to be beautiful but people got there
with ideas. I don’t know why a parking lot

should cover the green velvet moss that wrapped
the long slippery slate-stone path to the water

under thick green sun-spackled trees that was like walking
through golden pollen hovering inside the vest of a vast leprechaun

before opening out onto a beige pebbled beach
of bodies bobbing naked in the sunned shallows

or reclining like purposeful porpoises that Manet
or Seurat would gladly have painted, hips

and breasts, with their delicate French brushstrokes.
I decline the five dollar asking price

and drive on, back to Austin, talking to myself
feeling like Matthew McConaughey in a Mercedes commercial,

famous in my own mind, alone, and bewildered.

 

Ashbery’s Soonest Mended: Talking Things Out and the Qualifications Therein that Lead Us to Truth

In Soonest Mended, through a humbling out of self by means of a sequence of self-referential questions and answers, through a process of bringing forth by rejecting and flipping answers and questions around, through a discourse that levels itself out by qualification as it proceeds, John Ashbery achieves a beautiful and stunning sublimation of self through the mere act of talking, thereby discovering, almost as if by accident, the nature of the poetic truth he had, apparently, been aiming for all along.

I posit that Ashbery hones a reductionist, almost mathematical, technique for approaching the truth. His speakers engage in a series of approximations to the “truth” using argumentative qualifications. It is precisely these qualifications that allow the speakers to wend their way to truth by discovering, recovering, and discarding the many “truths” — these weaker version of themselves — that argumentatively lie along the path of such self-referential discourse. This is a key technique used within almost all of Ashbery’s poetry: talk that uncovers truth by qualifying itself at every turn.

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