John Ashbery

Life
The American poet offers an Irish allusion: ‘As sure as shillelaghs fall on frozen doorsteps it [ the “pancake” clock] came round again’ (‘Three Poems’, “Chinese Whispers”, in Times Literary Supplement, 11 May, 2001, p.12.)

Commentary
Geoff Ward, reviewing David Herd, John Ashbery and American Poetry (Manchester UP 2001), in Times Literary Supplement, 11 May 2001: ‘Syntactical continuity is rerouted by irony and light echoes of other contexts and occasions, in this case the marriage service [“Litany”], interrupting in order to prolong Ashbery’s world-wise improvisation. This instinct for creative self-interruption is show to be, as much as anything, the motor for the poetry. The Americanness of the loose fit, the prefrence for the verb or image that just seems to belong, is what still drives some British reviewers to feel that Ashbery’s words don’t always earn their keep, but is also what gives his poetry its mobility, grace and uncanny fidelity to what thinking feels like.’ (p.13).