Arduity: John Ashbery, Europe.


From 'Europe'

This poem was first published in 'The Tennis Court Oath' in 1962, a collection that was greeted with critical scorn. 'Europe' is divided into 111 numbered sections and is determinedly experimental.


They must hold against
The fire rain
or when sometime it seems
upwards,hands down
sell quickly took her bearings
did not appear entirely
a height of five thousand feet


The village (using the new headache system) were cut
With the stops running
A French or Swiss
had hit bottom and gotten back up
wild margins are possible
The gold a "call"
options his life...flea


A least
four days
A surprise
Is not a "images"
to "arrange"
He is a descendant, for example
The Swiss bank-a village


Man come for one inhumanity
the lowest pickpocket helps


Like the public,
from Crystal Palace


A roar
"sweetness and light"
and more scandalous....well, forgotten
The snow is around storm
He laughed lightly at cliff
and used that term


"Perhaps you've heard of her. She's a great flying woman."

"Oh yes" replied the stranger. "I've seen things about
her in the papers. Does she fly much?"

Europe is perhaps the most extreme example of Ashbery's earlier, experimental work. He used extracts from "Beryl of the Biplane", a 1917 children's novel by Bernard LeQueux, for some of the text and mixed in a collage of images of phrases. Some would argue that this remarkable poem is an early example of the postmodern sensibility with its rejection of 'meaning' and a deliberate playfulness. Others would argue that it borrows heavily from a distinctly French tradition of juxtosposition and a strong interest in cinematic montage. Either way, reading it is a dizzying experience and Ashbery's delight in the possibilities of language shines through.