You can’t say it that way any more. / Bothered about beauty you have to/Come out into the open, into the clearing,/ And rest. Certainly whatever funny happens to you/ Is OK
— And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name, John Ashbery
The greatest problem in the arts today is the title; this tag that tells us what something is about: Battle of…, Portrait of…., Bowl of… Of course this gives even the most humble subject a coat of arms, presto a seigniorial dwelling, white picket fence and garden, all the dignity it deserves and Sunday painters so admire. But is this good? This, I would argue, has infected poetics, this aboutness, this supernatural force like it can’t be escaped. It’s the tongue lolling like a lazy sunflower tropistic by default. But now I’m bored with this riff and need to take off in another direction which reminds me that most people can read maps, understand the conventions. There are others that are bored with cartography and prefer unreliable directions from the guys at the gas pump. I think this was really what Rabelais and Cervantes did. They were great travelers, happy never seeming to get there. That’s why don Q, Sancho P and Pantagruel so love the circumloquacious travels of a John Ashbery poem.
— George Spencer
Copyright©2009 by George Spencer. All Rights Reserved.