“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, March 22, 2013

Subject to Change Liveblog 4

Poems and Things panel

Mande Zecca (Johns Hopkins)

“The Combined Refraction of Everything Else: John Ashbery’s Objects” 

objects complicate what we think of Ashbery
Rain Taxi--a symposium on Ashbery’s working environments
The Disappearance of Objects (on the rise of the postmodern city)

assumption that Ashbery’s arrangements of objects <> his textual arrangements
eg his penchant for catalogs

NY transition in 50s and 60s, homogenization: abstraction 
>> assemblage based art of Johns, Oldenburg; taking up refuse and fragments
to counteract the leveling out of their milieu
erosion of place

Ashbery’s poetry of this period inflected with a similar anxiety

early critics of Jasper Johns deemed them too literal (Greenberg)
or critique of the modernist I
or a commentary on gay life in postwar America

but the closest according to Shannon is Hal Foster’s “The Passion of the Sign”
a crisis of signification: pure or literal signifiers are freed from the ballast of their signifieds

Auden: infamous foreword to Some Trees
and the NYT review of Johns “all very puzzling” (which is what Auden would have said given the chance!)

Shoptaw: access to meaning and social issues related
Foster <> Perloff on semantic discontinuity

poetry of abstraction and art that resists abstraction are deeply related
thus says something about how hard to disentangle objects from abstractions

affinity between Ashbery and thinking objects in poems

Lucretius, Mallarme, Bok

1965 conversation with Coke: what does and does not belong in a poem
“I would not put a statement in a poem”
“poetry does not have subject matter because it is the subject”
“when you said ‘we’ were you including the other objects in this room?”
“of course”

Sonnet (More of Same)
“pattern” material and abstract

Ashbery revives and complicates Williams on reconciliation of ideas and things

great example from “Scheherezade” about how ideas and dreams are autonomous entities CP 432
Other dreams came and left while the blank
Of colored verbs and adjectives was shrinking from the light
To nurse in shade their want of a method

“Some Old Tires”: no tires in the poem! but an alchemy whereby ideas and things begin to exchange for one another
slippages between the immaterial and the concrete

“Purists Will Object”
what use is a rarefied diction that is removed from everyday life

articulating relationships between humans and language

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