PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
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)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt on Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
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.

Into the Dusk-Charged Air
Describability, Architecture and Furniture
Matthew Welton
SOMETHING that has become important to the way I think about writing is the extent to which any particular poem might be thought of in terms of its describability. What I mean by that is, were somebody to provide you with a description of a poem and then to send you off to rummage around in the big poetry bran tub, the degree to which you would be sure of recognising the poem when you had found it. The surer you were, the greater the poem’s describability might be understood to be. This is a bit of a fanciful game, of course, and for it to be interesting you’d have to assume the description wouldn’t include the title or the writer’s name or any of that index-page kind of stuff. And, the way I like to go about this, it’s also best if you do without the poem’s subject matter or any quotation. From these ground rules, it would follow that a truly describable poem would be sufficiently unique that it would only require a very simple description.

‘Into the Dusk-Charged Air’ by John Ashbery is a poem in which the name of a river is included in every line. Put in those terms, it is a poem that fits my criterion of describability pretty snugly.

There is, of course, more that could be said about the poem and, against the possibility that it should turn out that there are dozens of poems in which the name of a river is included in every line, here is a little more detail: ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image