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Preview — Chinese Whispers by John Ashbery
by John Ashbery (Goodreads Author)
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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(showing 1-30 of 165)
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
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
At the age of 75, John Ashbery still has it--whatever it is. As is true of all his work, each poem is a cloud of almost-meaning, organizing fragments of speech so enticing and with such formal excellence that the reader is seduced into participating in the poem's creation and completing the meaning for himself. As is appropriate for a book by an old man, this is about death, endings and legacy. Or at least that is how this almost-old-man completed the meaning for himself.
Feb 17, 2008 Kent rated it 4 of 5 stars · 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."
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.
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.
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.
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, ...moreMore about John Ashbery...