A Rainbow of Tears: Reading John Ashbery

I’m a regular fountain of tears today Continue reading

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Jerry Lewis Comes Home

Who will we call on to help us
negotiate the tripwires,
to summon the courage to trip,
for we will, inevitably, over
every one and not to dud, please,
but to spring back nonplussed, now
that you have fallen?

Dear Jerry, we aren’t as spry
as we used to be. And tumble
we will over studied nuttiness
or improvised decorum
in the full blare of fluorescents
radiating on rubbed nerves
amid constant calls
for caution.

Though you buttered the bread
the French learned to parbake
they never forgot the you
they embraced
and we willingly relinquished
—no, rejected, or more correctly
could not stand
to look upon
was us.

You slowly came back to our shores,
never having left, the boy still crying
for mother, turning buckets of tears
into showers of confetti.
Can we know you now
as us
and claim you now
as our own, now that your own
have turned
to dust?


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ee cummings fora $

Why should Cummings’ poetry be a somewhat guilty pleasure for me? Continue reading

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Nature Is Cruel, Staros

In terms of fashion, the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever is fixed in time and place. Its disco beats, big collar polyester shirts, bellbottoms and platform shoes place it squarely in late 1970’s big-city America. The economic milieu of the film situates it less. The time we’re living in now bears some similarity: young working class people living with their parents skeptical of the future. Beyond purely artistic considerations, which are prodigious (fine performances and cinematic flow, stellar dancing from John Travolta and music), the enduring power of the film comes from universal human characteristics. It is not some peculiarity of 1970’s America that determines characters like those we see in Saturday Night Fever—dancing joyously one moment, plunging into abysses of self-doubt the next. This is the human experience itself. Continue reading

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A Note On John Ashbery and Charles Sanders Peirce

I was reminded of Ashbery’s phrase, “notes from the air”, the title of a poem from Hotel Lautréamont and part of the title of a selection of his poetry published in 2008, while reading an essay published in 1878 by Charles Sanders Peirce. Continue reading

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Karin Roffman On the Young John Ashbery

In the summer of 1992 while traveling out west I lingered in Austin Texas long enough to go to a club and see a rock band called the True Believers. Continue reading

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Paul Auster’s 4321



In an essay from the mid-1970’s on the poet Charles Reznikoff, Paul Auster wrote of the poet’s ability to

choose the exact detail that will say everything and thereby allow as much as possible to remain unsaid. This kind of restraint paradoxically requires an openness of spirit that is available to very few….
–from The Art of Hunger

Paul Auster wrote that before he had written the novels that would make him famous. And while I have not read the poetry he had written, I’m willing to grant—because of those novels—that he was writing here from experience. He knew, from the inside, what he was talking about. The New York Trilogy proved it.

Another attribute available to few: the ability to write a successful long novel, long in my estimation being more than 400 pages. Auster has written brilliant short novels, surely some of the best of our time. Could he now, pushing 70, write a successful long one? And why would he want to? Isn’t that like moving backwards? Isn’t leaving out a greater challenge than putting in? Those are the questions that drew me to 4321, Auster’s new novel of nearly 900 pages. Why in God’s name would he want to do it? Continue reading

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