Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From John Ashbery's "Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (Commonplace Book)

Just a quick commonplace entry today, from John Ashbery's "Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror". I wanted to quote it this week since we have been talking about aesthetics and I have been defending my enjoyment of the more superficial aspects of Grant Morrison's New X-Men, such as the clothes. Here are a few lines from one of the most important poems by one of the most important poets of the century:

But your eyes proclaim
That everything is surface. The surface is what's there
And nothing can exist except what's there.
...

There are no words for the surface, that is,
No words to say what it really is, that it is not
Superficial but a visible core...

6 comments:

Pat Moler said...

I don't get it.

Geoff Klock said...

Well maybe you need the whole poem. The trick with Ashbery is read it over and over again and don't worry about what it means, and it will come to you. Or if it doesn't, come back and read it again in a year. That's what I did after I first read, and didn't get, Ashbery. A year later he was my favorite poet.

Pat Moler said...

You sure talk about Aesthetics a lot. I'm guessing you're really into bodybuilding. haha..eh..hopefully you get that joke.

Patrick said...

Ashbury took a while for me as well, -last year I read and re-read a whole bunch of his poems and when I got to "A Wave" he had me.

Roger Whitson said...

yes! I did a paper on the convex mirror as an inversion of Lacan's Mirror Stage as an MA--I focused almost entirely on the passages describing the margins of the mirror, where everything gets distorted and re-distorted in representation. Pretty obvious, but the paper got really wierd.

I became obsessed with the space the poem created that was part poetry and part criticism.

One of my favorite poems. Have you read any of Ashbery's art criticism, by the way?

Geoff Klock said...

Pat: aesthetics, athletics, I get it.

Patrick: A Wave is a fantastic book and poem.

Roger Whitson: I have read his art criticism (I have an old volume of his prose, not the new one). It is very good.