By Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz
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Extra resources for American Writers, Supplement III
With the town parents "pissing" (or "passing") elegantly and ritually along the middle blank space while escaping the carnal knowledge of the hedges of print on either side. The two-columned poem has various analogues or parallels: the two eyes or ears, consciousness and self-consciousness, text and commentary or translation, twin phalluses or columns of figures, newspaper or Bible columns of print, "simultaneous but independent monologues" (as Ashbery describes them in an introductory note), and so on.
Although the interior mode of the poems in As We Know makes it difficult for them to rival either the ringing periods of "Clepsydra" or "Syringa," at least one poem in this volume, "Tapestry," ranks among Ashbery's best: It is difficult to separate the tapestry From the room or loom which takes precedence over it. For it must always be frontal and yet to one side. It insists on this picture of "history" In the making, because there is no way out of the punishment It proposes: sight blinded by sunlight.
These cumulative savings, in the face of losses, helped fund Ashbery's next published volume, April Galleons (1987). " In the Thoreauvian prose poem "The Ice Storm," Ashbery finds another way to make prose new. The allegory of the [p]rose at the center of this I-storm is lucidly unassuming: Today I found a rose in full bloom in the wreck of the garden, all the living and sentience but also the sententiousness drained out of it. What remained was like a small flower in the woods, too pale and sickly to notice.
American Writers, Supplement III by Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz
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