The Tennis Court Oath (John Ashbery) pdf, epub, doc

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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars When it's good, it's very very good. But when it's bad..., June 28, 2004

John Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath (Wesleyan, 1962)

Reading Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath probably doesn't rank high on the list of many people's favorite things to do. But reading it while you've immersed yourself in a glut of Charles Simic is an especially bad idea. Simic is the quintessential surrealist writing in English today; Ashbery is sort of a weird, fuzzy cross between surrealism, dada, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E whose work is, by turns, incomprehensibly unreadable and quite good.

I opened the book to a random page and start quoting from the top left...

"You often asked me after hours
The glass pinnacle, its upkeep and collapse
Knowing that if we were in a barn
Straw panels would... Confound it
Te arboretum is bursting with jasmine and lilac
And all I can smell here is newsprint..."
("The New Realism")

Anyone who wants to take a stab at explaining that, by all means, go ahead. I cannot help but compare this stuff (as I did in a recent Jackson Mac Low review) to the work of John M. Bennett, which is completely nonsensical but SOUNDS like it shouldn't be. Reading John M. Bennett is like understanding how to read and pronounce a completely foreign language without understanding a single word; even when you have no idea what's going on, if you read it out loud, you can still do so smoothly and put inflections in all the right places to make it sound great. With this, the reader is reduced to stumbling through, trying to grasp some semblance of meaning in order to make it scan. (And we wonder why people ask "what does it mean?" when confronted with poetry. lord save us.)

But when Ashbery is on, he is quite on, and his work takes on a spectre of imagism; not enough to make the book worth buying, mind you, but enough to make it worth borrowing from the library. The more lucid sections of "Europe," for example, where Ashbery dispenses with the easy, wannabe dadaism and gets down to his subject (Beryl Markham), give the reader an idea of why Ashbery, not too long before this, was selected by the Yale Series of Younger Poets. But, as with many poetry collections, you wade through some swine to get to the pearls. In this case, they're often in the same poems. ** ½

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Book info

  • Author:
  • Publisher:Wesleyan
  • File: 6.6 Mb
  • Ganre: Poetry
  • Release: 01.12.1977
  • ISBN: 9780819510136
  • Pages 94
  • Rating: 4.18 (370 votes)

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