PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Next Issue Alberto Manguel Selbstgefühl New poems by Fleur Adcock, Claudine Toutoungi and Tuesday Shannon James Campbell A Walk through the Times Literary Supplement
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January - February 2018.

Optimism Sam Riviere
DURING THE SUMMER I corresponded with the Australian writer Jessica Yu as part of a ‘polyvocal’ project commissioned by an Edinburgh-based independent gallery. At one point in the mile-long email thread that resulted, Jessica wrote that she liked a sensation of ‘relaxing into an awareness of the obscurity of one’s own motives’, and I wrote back that it made me think of John Ashbery. I could have put something like ‘Ashbery country’, but I didn’t know at that time if Jessica knew or enjoyed John Ashbery’s poetry. We were discussing writing and marriage.

In July I stayed for a month at an isolated location with no internet access as part of a writers’ residency I had applied for in early 2016. Jessica and I continued our correspondence by letter, and I read several early-ish Ashbery books I hadn’t read before: Rivers and Mountains, The Double Dream of Spring, A Wave; I reread Some Trees. At the same time, I was reading Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (ten pages as soon as I woke up, to seal my morning stupor), and Jonathan Bate’s biography of John Clare. Also some French poets in dated English translations, and Leonard Koren on Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese ‘unfinished’ aesthetic sensibility. These books, as I wrote to Jessica in a letter composed awkwardly in MS Word (a letter in Times New Roman is wrong), began to swim together over the days, assisted by the way I seemed to be reading Deleuze and Guattari as a kind of modernist poem, drifting through whole sections with little-to-no orientation, while the Clare biography I approached more as a pacey period novel. Ashbery’s ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image