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Chinese Whispers

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  129 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
According to a Victorian volume called "Drawing Room Amusements" (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest col ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 5th 2003 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2002)
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Bill  Kerwin
Nov 14, 2015 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

At the age of 75, John Ashbery still has it--whatever "it" means. For meaning is a shifting (I almost said "shifty") thing in the verse of John Ashbery.

As is true of all his work, each poem is a cloud of almost-meaning, organizing fragments of speech so enticingly into an artifact of such formal excellence that the reader is seduced into participating in the poem's creation by completing the meaning for himself.

As is appropriate for a book by an old man, this is about death, endings and legacy
Jan 26, 2016 Kasandra rated it really liked it
Didn't like this on the whole as much as And the Stars Were Shining, but that's the ultimate Ashbery book, to me. I love how he ends his poems -- no matter how convoluted he gets, how many twists and turns he takes, how much vocabulary you have to look up, Ashbery knows how to end a poem so that you know you're at an end, a sort of summing up, even though his work can't at all be summarized or categorized. He is his own category, and his imagination is vast, impressive, funny, wry, forlorn, and ...more
Jul 27, 2008 Zalman rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Ashbery fans
I really wanted to like this book more, because Ashbery has written some of my favorite poems. Hearing him read once, in Cambridge in the late 1970s, was an unforgettably pleasurable experience. And of course I realize that emulating, amplifying, distilling, and somehow organizing the random buzz of everyday speech and our media saturated environment, is part of Ashbery's method. I often appreciate the results, and some of the passages in "Chinese Whispers" struck me as brilliant, alive with wit ...more
Eric Phetteplace
Aug 15, 2007 Eric Phetteplace rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Ashbery jams together faux philosophy, common speech, and some cool images in such a way as to create his own very distinct narratives. Some prose poems here and a lot of typical free verse that blends together. You could take any title, then jump around the book for an arbitrary length of time reading lines here and there, and you would have a poem as good as any in the book. Not that that's bad, but it does show how experiments like this sacrifice a certain specificity which can create a great ...more
Feb 17, 2008 Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have such a deep trust in Ashbery's ability to lead me into places that I had never really thought of. And so even when I feel vague through most of this book, I still find that the tone, the tonal shifts, and the imaginative possibilities are what I most want. I just wish that all of the poems were as lucid to me as "Under Cellophane."
Dec 07, 2011 Troy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Andrew
Ashbery fucking rocks it. He's a hundred years old and still more prolific and elegaic and wildly, coherently abstract than anyone. Although it seems to me that some poems would benefit from some cutting, his fluidity is probably somehow inextricably wedded to his verbosity. He's a great Living Poet. Read him now before he's Dead.
Jul 06, 2008 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The large thing ending up small. That's how I feel about the poems in this here book. How the sweepingness of Ashbery's gesture gets suddenly so miniscule and degraded, almost unconfortable, so as to make them, "um" "well" I don't know exactly. Sort of bitchy and breaking open at the same time.
Jun 21, 2008 Emma rated it did not like it
I really, really want to like John Ashbery's poetry. But I just don't. Nothing will ever convince me that it's okay for a poem to make absolutely no sense, but none of the poems in this collection do. Which makes it impossible for me to enjoy them.
Eric T. Voigt Voigt
Dec 17, 2012 Eric T. Voigt Voigt rated it it was amazing
As with the Chinese whispers I'm used to this was impossible to understand and I had the sneaking suspicion I was being judged the entire time I was in the restaurant.
Dec 17, 2008 John added it
More from American poet John Ashbery. A lot of randomness in his work: like a waterfall of words.

Like Guided by Voices? Like Pavement? You'll like Ashbery.
Apr 04, 2010 Kenny added it
where are the openings into this?
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John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and he traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to France in 1955. Best known as a poet, he has published more than twenty collections, most recently A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007). His Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975) won the three major American prizes: the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, ...more
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“Try a little subtlety in self-defense; it’ll help, you’ll find out.” 1 likes
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