Tuesday, 31 May 2011

George Ttoouli - Notes towards a review of Ashbery's Planisphere (with analysis)

George Ttoouli discovers notes made over a year ago in red ink on a scratty piece of lined A4 paper, upon speed-reading Ashbery's Planisphere (Carcanet, 2009), ISBN: 978-1-84777-089-9.

Each poem feels tricksy, yet chatty.


The colloquial style is engaging, but also distracting.

"The land stretched away like jelly into a confused cleft." ('Planisphere')

"Why what a lovely street /
blank canvas / pause / orb /
old person / new song / milestone /
caned seat this is!" ('Tous les Regretz')

Elements occur where writing about writing becomes a dominant theme. At these points Ashbery's verbal dexterity shines.

The collage effect means, ultimately, most of the poems don't in themselves work by contextual build, accrued overall power. If anything they seem anti-framework, against the idea of interest and meaning.

Some poems seem gentler, more cohered, less playful, but where he works in the dominant mode I'm familiar with from reading earlier work, these are extremely satisfying, perhaps more conventionally shaped, but dialect play + voice + colloquialism is pushed and tested and delightful.


[NB. I read the book in about an hour, made the notes as I went along. This seems a more effective review than anything coherent I could shape out of the notes.]

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