- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“I too often feel like a person I know nothing about.”


Happy birthday, John Ashbery! Here are some quotes from his writing.


“Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibilities that they are founded on nothing.”


“Today, a day that makes very little sense,
like America,
in clear disarray
everything’s getting worse.”


“All beauty, resonance, integrity,
Exist by deprivation or logic
Of strange position.”


“Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted.”

“We have to live out our precise experimentation.
Otherwise there’s no dying for anybody,
no crisp rewards.”


“It is the lumps and trials
That tell us whether we shall be known
And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star.”


“Say no to nothing is my credo
And pocket veto.”

“The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot be.”


“Anything can change as fast as it wants to, and in doing so may pass through a more or less terrible phase, but the true terror is in the swiftness of changing, forward or backward, slipping just beyond our control.”


“Every once in a while I will pick up a page and it has something, but what is it? It seems so unlike what poetry “as we know it” is. But at other moments I feel very much at home with it. It’s a question of a sudden feeling of unsureness at what I am doing, wondering why I am writing the way I am, and also not feeling the urge to write in another way.”


“My intention is to present the reader with a pleasant surprise, not an unpleasant one, not a nonsurprise. I think this is the way pleasure happens when you are reading poetry.”


“Things are in a continual state of motion and evolution, and if we come to a point where we say, with certitude, right here, this is the end of the universe, then of course we must deal with everything that goes on after that, whereas ambiguity seems to take further developments into account. We might realize that the present moment may be one of an eternal or sempiternal series of moments, all of which will resemble it because, in some ways, they are the present, and won’t in other ways, because the present will be the past by that time.”


“I don’t think people ever read things the way they are supposed to. I myself will skip ahead several chapters, or read a little bit of this page and a little bit of that page, and I assume that is what everybody does. I just wanted the whole thing to be, as I have said, presentable; it’s not a form that has a cohesive structure, so it could be read just as one pleases. I think I consider the poem as a sort of environment, and one is not obliged to take notice of every aspect of one’s environment—one can’t, in fact. That is why it came out the way it did.”


“Every writer faces the problem of the person that he is writing for, and I think nobody has ever been able to imagine satisfactorily who this ‘homme moyen sensuel’ will be. I try to aim at as wide an audience as I can so that as many people as possible will read my poetry. Therefore I depersonalize it, but in the same way personalize it, so that a person who is going to be different from me but is also going to resemble me just because he is different from me, since we are all different from each other, can see something in it. You know—I shot an arrow into the air but I could only aim it.”


“Reading is a pleasure, but to finish reading, to come to the blank space at the end, is also a pleasure.”


John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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