Analysis of Poetry : John Ashbery

In my opinion, the ‘most difficult poet’ at present (to be understood) in the United States and probably, all over the world, is John Ashbery. Before I delve into the second part for Jibonanondo(which will require more reading and information gathering from my part),I want to introduce this fascinating personality to the  readers.

Lets start with his simple poem,” THE GRAPEVINE”.

THE GRAPEVINE :JOHN ASHBERY

Of who we and all they are
You all now know. But you know
After they began to find us out we grew
Before they died thinking us the causes

Of their acts. Now we’ll not know
The truth of some still at the piano, though
They often date from us, causing
These changes we think we are. We don’t care

Though, so tall up there
In young air. But things get darker as we move
To ask them: Whom must we get to know
To die, so you live and we know?

***************************************

We cannot definitely tell what it was for. Usually some poems have multiple explanations. I also thouht in the sameway.
Then one day , a critique (Internet based magazine) explained the poem.
Today our analysis will be based on that. Once I find that very old URL, i will post.
Let us first start with the title”GRAPEVINE”. If you take the primary meaning or straight meaning, that stands for ‘A vine on which grapes grow’.
Watch out the secondary meaning of the word,’The informal transmission of information, gossip, or rumor from person to person’ and the third one
,’A usually unrevealed source of confidential information’ (courtesy:www.dictionary.com).
We need to pick second and third one and combination with the first because the entire poem is about ’suppressing an Identity group that is struggling to get/grow on their feet’, and we are the ’suppressors’. This poem is about the ’strugglling’ homo-sexuals in modern society. They are like a gossip, rumor, flourishing secretly.

They are flourishing like ‘Grapes in the Vine’.

So the first line “Of who we and all they are
You all now know.”-makes sense,huh?
now the lines,

“Now we’ll not know
The truth of some still at the piano, though
They often date from us, causing
These changes we think we are”-here he was describing a scene which he observed real life where gay people were singing in piano. To me it is a very important line because Ashbery is recognizing the ‘Aesthetic’ nature of the whole idea. That identity group might ’show’ their love for each other in music(so they are developing a culture!),for which we dont know much.

Now lets move on the sentence about the “causing
These changes we think we are”-lines. WE think we are-means WE only think about our identity, that is we ‘STRAIGHT’ people and world should be straight. But they(homosexuals) chaning this view, they will change the ‘Hardened’ concept that ‘Straightness’ is the universal identity.

In “We don’t care Though, so tall up there
In young air”-means whether we care or not this young generation is growing like ‘grapes ‘ in the vine, they are growing in the young/powerful air.

In the last line, he is sympathetic about the Homosexuals and posing question for the entire society who is the ‘audience’ here. How to ‘kill’ the concept that there should be one and unique sexual identity(’Straight’) in the society?
“But things get darker as we move
To ask them: Whom must we get to know
To die, so you live and we know”.

darker means that it is ‘deeper’ social issue. So we have to ‘Kill’ the concept(so to speak, WE, the straight people ‘need’ to ‘die’ to bring them(Homosexuals) upfront. The word ‘die’ here is symbolic. Look at the last line.
‘So that you live and we know”-means he is expecting that one day the ’straight’ and ‘homosexual’ community will live together, “we know” means ‘WE(straight) will recognize them, embrace them into our social context and knowlege.

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3 Responses to “Analysis of Poetry : John Ashbery”

  1. M Says:

    There is a true beauty of this poem in it’s abstractness and due to it it’s availability for apply to many identities and situations.

  2. willailla Says:

    I’m sorry, but if a poem can only be understood by the poet’s explication then he needs to supply that explication along with the poem. Otherwise he/she is merely playing the effete. And who of us would not be considered a poetic genius if we, and we alone, are the sole authority of that meaning?

  3. site Says:

    Hello, I check your new stuff like every week. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up!

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