Friday, October 07, 2005

Rule 7: start with the feeling and work backwards to see where it came from

Another way I like to misread Ashbery is start with the feeling (the impression, the vague idea, the half notion, whatever) the poem gives me (if it gives me a feeling, or if I have a feeling that I can, rightly or wrongly, attribute to the poem) and then go back and mark the lines that might have given me that feeling.

After reading Ashbery's "In Dearest, Deepest Winter," which comes second in BAP 2005, right after Ammons's poem, I thought Ashbery's poem could be *"'about'"* getting old and thinking back on being young and the places and times of youth. How we get old and die, so, as the first line says, "Go and join them, while they're still there." Something as common and general as that. Then I went back and marked all the passages I thought might support that idea. I got everything except the last bit ("What calamity on the second floor...").

Which proves nothing, and is meant to prove nothing, and is of course all wrong. But it helps me to think about the poem. Maybe I wouldn't have thought that at all if I hadn't just finished reading the Ammons piece, which certain is about getting old and dying, because Ammons doesn't play the same game Ashnery plays.

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