PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott

(PN Review 235)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Peter Scupham at 85: a celebration Contributions by Anne Stevenson, Robert Wells, Peter Davidson, Lawrence Sail

This article is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

Poetry the Hard Way Eavan Boland

I interviewed John Ashbery for this piece on a summer day thirteen years ago. I drove for an hour or so south of Dublin on the Wexford Road and found him in the unlikely setting of Gorey, a small and graceful market town which, besides having an enterprising arts festival, published a newsheet with the inspired title of The Gorey Detail. Ashbery was courteous and - for a shy and reticent man - both deft and exact in his answers. Some of the answers are in this piece. But there is a constraint in literary journalism, even when the paper is as hospitable as the Irish Times. And so I made mistakes. I brought a tape recorder and took down most of his answers in that way. I also brought a notebook and to that less verifiable source I trusted one of his most interesting answers. When I came to transcribe it, however, it didn't seem clear enough and so I excluded from the article the most compelling thing he said, and one which I've often thought back on. American poetry, he remarked - this is his exact phrase - suffers from the Cordelia syndrome. The best answers - this is a paraphrase now - are unvarnished and the less reliable ones are - what? At this point my notes are unclear. My pen skids off the page perhaps, or I leaned over and changed a tape or the man from Porlock entered with a tray of coffee. I ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image