What Is Poetry

The medieval town, with frieze
Of boy scouts from Nagoya? The snow

That came when we wanted it to snow?
Beautiful images? Trying to avoid

Ideas, as in this poem? But we
Go back to them as to a wife, leaving

The mistress we desire? Now they
Will have to believe it

As we believe it. In school
All the thought got combed out:

What was left was like a field.
Shut your eyes, and you can feel it for miles around.

Now open them on a thin vertical path.
It might give us - what? - some flowers soon?


from Selected Poems (Carcanet, 1998), copyright © John Ashbery 1998, used by permission of the author.

Recordings

John Ashbery

John Ashbery Reading from his poems

1The Instruction Manual

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2Some Trees

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3For John Clare

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4Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape

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5What Is Poetry

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6At North Farm

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7The Songs We Know Best

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8Landscape (After Baudelaire)

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9Just Walking Around

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10More Pleasant Adventures

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11Hotel Lautreamont

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12This Room

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13If You Said You Would Come With Me

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14A Linnet

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15The Bobinski Brothers

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16The History of My Life

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17A Nice Presentation

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18Disagreeable Glimpses

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19Theme Park Days

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20View of Delft

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21The Lightning Conductor

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22I Asked Mr. Dithers Whether It Was time Yet He Said No to Wait

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23Chinese Whispers

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24Local Legend

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25Sir Gammer Vans

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Books by John Ashbery