VERSE IS THE MOST DIFFICULT: IF POE REVIEWED ASHBERY

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He became apprehensive of the poem exciting derision, and so interwove sundry touches of the burlesque, behind whose equivocal aspect he might shelter himself at need.

Let us call this thing a rhymed jeu d’esprit, a burlesque, or what not? — and, even so called, and judged by its new name, we must still regard it as a failure. Even in the loosest compositions we demand a certain degree of keeping. But in this poem none is apparent. The tone is unsteady fluctuating between the grave and the gay — and never being precisely either. Thus there is a failure in both. The intention being never rightly taken, we are, of course, never exactly in condition either to weep or to laugh.

We do not pretend to be the Oracles of Dodona, but it does really appear to us that Mr. ____ intended the whole matter, in the first instance, as a solemnly serious thing; and that, having composed it in a grave vein, he became apprehensive of the poem exciting derision, and so interwove sundry touches of the burlesque, behind whose equivocal aspect he might shelter himself at need. In no other supposition can we reconcile the spotty appearance of the whole with a belief in the sanity of the author.  –EA Poe

A Worldly Country

Not the smoothness, not the insane clocks on the square,
the scent of manure in the municipal parterre,
not the fabrics, the sullen mockery of Tweety Bird,
not the fresh troops that needed freshening up.  If it occured
in real time, it was O.K., and if it was time in a novel
that was O.K., too.  From palace and hovel
the great parade flooded avenue and byway
and turnip fields became just another highway.
Leftover bonbons were thrown to the chickens
and geese, who squawked like the very dickens.
There was no peace in the bathroom, none in the china closet
or the banks, where no one came to make a deposit,
In short all hell broke loose that wide afternoon.
By evening all was calm again. A crescent moon
hung in the sky like a parrot on its perch.
Departing guests smiled and called, “See you in church!”
For night, as usual, knew what it was doing,
providing sleep to offset the great ungluing
that tomorrow again would surely bring.
As I gazed at the quiet rubble, one thing
puzzled me: What had happened, and why?
One minute we were up to our necks in rebelliousness,
and the next, peace had subdued the ranks of hellishness.

So often it happens that the time we turn around in
soon becomes the shoal our pathetic skiff will run aground in,
And just as waves are anchored to the bottom of the sea
we must reach the shallows before God cuts us free.

–John Ashbery

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

—sample of verse from Edgar Poe

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1 Comment

  1. noochinator said,

    May 16, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    “…it does really appear to us that Mr. ____ intended the whole matter, in the first instance, as a solemnly serious thing; and that, having composed it in a grave vein, he became apprehensive of the poem exciting derision, and so interwove sundry touches of the burlesque, behind whose equivocal aspect he might shelter himself at need.”

    Hey, I do that all the time!


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