Mary Karr

Detail of Alex Katz, The Red Smile, 1963, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum

Detail: Alex Katz, The Red Smile, 1963, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum. Photo: Joseph M. Gerace

Assail self-portrait in U.S. letters 
today—an invention of his seductive voice
this zippo and his seductive voice 
is influence is influential 
is inflated enough to take a smart guy
immensely charming most celebrated 
and unclothed enough to take it
he’s a smart guy with a genius ear for music

In America’s besotted unclothed empire 
anybody else’s brilliant poison 
with a genius ear for clothes 
John Ashbery’s reputation is this
polis is zippo and its reproductive voice is an essay 
on U.S. letters today—an invention of his pure, convex seduction:

you can’t comprehend? Neither cant of his seductive voice 
comprehend? Neither the most poisonous emperor
can’t comprehend? influence is influence is inflated cloth
Neither can’t comprehend? A brilliant, modest guy
Neither a convex mirror, then enough to take it. He’s a 
can’t comprehend? Neither can’t comprehend? Neither 
can’t comprehend? Neither, in my besotted youth, I wrote a turd.

Source: “Mary Karr: By The Book.” New York Times 24 Oct. 2015. Web.

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