David Remnick


Referential in a way John Ashbery could never be —
I’ve yet to read John Ashbery.

I’m at the ironbark dreaming,
Except I’m not; I’m ironstone.

The world will not let me
Say what I mean; or I

Come across
Weak, watered down

And cheap. I’m afraid to pay
For what I deserve; “Alright.

Honey, have a safe trip.
Yep, OK. Alright, the plan is airtight.”

“be frank (if you can’t be frank, be john and kenneth).”

be frank

From “The Last Avant-Garde” by David Lehman:

[Frank] O’Hara’s ironically self-deprecating tone was much imitated. “I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love,” he wrote. He kiddingly called his own poems “the by-product of exhibitionism” and wrote constantly about his daily life. It was O’Hara who initiated the policy of dropping names in his poems, a habit that became a New York School trademark. O’Hara peppered his work with references to his painter friends — [Jane] Freilicher, [Larry] Rivers, Mike Goldberg, Joan Mitchell, Norman Bluhm, Grace Hartigan, Al Leslie — with perfect indifference to whether readers would recognize their names. That indifference argued a certain confidence in the poet’s ability to make the details of his autobiography-in-progress so irresistible that the reader feels flattered to be regarded as the poet’s intimate. O’Hara s celebration of friendship in poetry represented an ideal that second-generation New York School poets, such as Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Ron Padgett, and Anne Waldman, emulated in the 1960s. Everyone wanted to be, as [Ted] Berrigan put it, “perfectly frank.” James Schuyler has a marvelous rift in a letter to Berkson urging him to “be frank (if you can’t be frank, be john and kenneth). Say,” Schuyler continues, “maybe our friends’ names would make good verbs: to kenneth: emit a loud red noise; to ashbery- cast a sidewise salacious glance while holding a champagne glass by the stem; to kenward: glide from the room and not make waves; to brainard, give a broad and silent chuckle; to maehiz, shower with conversational spit drops–but I said friends, didn’t I–cancel the last. To berkson and to schuyler I leave to you.”


Source: Lehman, David. The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. New York: Doubleday, 1998, print, p. 73.

Wikipedia Poem, No. 208


“I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes.” Adrienne Rich


ok listen i
don’t want to
be rude

court fashion follows
cuttings rope or
from which rumors

and plus you’re
old building upon
years of respect

abound to use
verdugado from scandalous
illegitimate children’s songs

able work that
i personally redundant
love and admire

fashion by pedro
de castilla y
fonseca el mozo

but jesus fucking
christ give it
a rest with

this shiny coin
wide eye wink
wink farthingale bullshit

rumors about whalebone
spanish steps its
way into england

her wanton bough
surfaces as executioner
earliest images execute

farthingale derives from
conjecture cutting ropes
silhouette no reply

hand finishing thread
the edge matters
for you hems

each piece apart
so tiny fabrics
machine stitch research

the matter suggests
togetherness long quality
little weakened years

part of the
embroidery age oh
perfect seams intimidate

wink wink wink
farthingale but jesus
fucking christ give

it a rest
with this coin
shine wide eye

love and admire
bullshit ok listen
i don’t want

to sound rude
and admire but
jesus fucking christ

upon the cross
coin shine wide
eye wide eyed

farthingale bullshit ok
listen i don’t
want to be

plus sized and
you’re old building
christ give it

a respectable wage
that i personally
redundantly love and

plus able bodied
work loves jesus
upon your admiral

i personally love
and admire bullshit
ok don’t listen



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.

Lilting Towards Bethlehem

"Jarred by thought's boomerang you waken / on an open hillside. This is what it means / to be opposed, alert." John Ashbery

“Jarred by thought’s boomerang you waken / on an open hillside. This is what it means / to be opposed, alert.” John Ashbery

Shoulders too narrow
Ankles wrapped in fat

Where art for your bones
What color your breast

Bent toward a queer pouch
Straight to a sneer slouch

Beer luge and bar stool
Oxblooded law school, teleporter blues

Content is King
Google bench in the zoo

Zelig demands
400 words on Transformers 2

His diary a cook book
Tarzan lifts Jezebel toward Kalamazoo

Mrs Butterworth says hop
Scotch will kill you quicker than Flickr

Marissa Mayer’s a lyre
Ford’s car culture’s on fire

Maternity leaves in a fog
MILF is a short bob toward identity hog, snob.

John Ashbery


Reading Ben Lerner from behind
Without Ben Lerner's express written consent
I am Ben Lerner "noctilucent"
Against Ben Lerner's particular ass 

The pedals of the tricycle in Ben Lerner's front yard
     haven’t rotated, felt reciprocation in months 
But nonetheless, here I am, Ben Lerner
Atop Ben Lerner, concerned about Death
All tucking away the c-word from an old,
     untitled Ben Lerner poem,
     an even older poem by Wallace Stevens

From Ben Lerner's mind 
To Ben Lerner's mouth 
And into, and onto, Ben Lerner's
     night-blooming genera.

Sexualizing Christ on the Cross


“and why not say so? You see, griping comes naturally
to me and to all mankind. Once, when shut up
at the bottom of a shaft of some kind, I
assumed that the world would just trickle naturally”
— John Ashbery

Let’s go back to your place?
Implies a need to be witnessed
And notarized; sexual, congratulatory,
Childish, the buried bones
Of some magnificent gun-toting species
Pitched toward erotic banality, then,
Speed-date market demand, bond issue
Blind dates, swipe right commodity trades.

We spread wide
The lips of earth
Live a little wilder.