Reading Week 5: John Ashbery



Though this is a pretty dense piece about Ashbery's critical theories, there is an excellent call for artists to "take up separate and individual spiritual pilgrimages to find their personal visions." I don't believe he's suggesting that one is more creative, productive, or even individual if they work in a vacuum, but rather that he believes one must "eschew fashion" in order to achieve work of a singular clarity.

I found parts of this quite difficult to read, possibly because it spends a lot of time talking in terms of writing styles and techniques that I am not totally clear on. It did express to me how art criticism could be a vehicle for a writer to explore writing. I have always tended to see art criticism as being primarily about the art, but I am seeing that the art can also serve as an anchor around which the ship of creative writing can swing. In my natural focus on the art content of texts I may have been unintentionally blind to a different road of appreciation.

This intro seemed unclear to me. I agree with Will as perhaps I am not educated enough in works of poetry and writing styles enough to appreciate the works of John Ashberry. I do understand this interested give and take they outline between art and writing. They have fed each other in different stages of their developments.

I have to agree with Will and Chris that I was little confused about this one and found it a bit arduous at times. The one line that stuck out to me the most was "he wrote not as an expert but as an informed observer, and for a general audience interested in finding out what was worth seeing, and uninterested in esoteric squabbles over theory, practice and methodology." Arts writing that can be described this way is all too rare. Even though I am involved in art (and in an MFA program), I find most arts writing alienating.

The fact that Ashbery was first anchored in this reading by Paris, 1960, and the Herald Tribune completely derailed my attention as I pictured the gorgeous Jean Seberg selling copies of it on the street in Godard's "Breathless" of the same year. It's interesting how this little bit of information can suck me right into wanting to know more about Ashbery.

It's fascinating to see Ashbery's work picked apart in such grammatic terms. This echoes the approach that Ashbery took when writing about art. When asked his approach to writing about art, he explained that, "perhaps this is because I feel basically disinterested - not interested - in art."

Is he EVER a poet. There he clarified his approach by distinguishing the nuance between disinterest and non-interest. He refined his word choice.

I wish I hadn't saved this reading for last. I suspect I will like his work and will be reading more. He has a precise way of describing something that feels deeply considered yet effortless. I want some of that for myself.

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