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

Hollywood Lempriere James Keery

Here is the beginning of 'Soonest Mended', from The Double Dream of Spring:
Barely tolerated, living on the margin
In our technological society, we were always having to be
On the brink of destruction, like heroines in Orlando

Before it was time to start all over again.
There would be thunder in the bushes, a rustling of coils,
And Angelica, in the Ingres painting, was considering
The colorful but small monster near her toe, as though
   wondering whether forgetting
The whole thing might not, in the end, be the only solution.

'Then again,' Ashbery might have continued,

Who would, for preference,
  be a bard in an oral culture,
obliged at drunken feasts to improvise a eulogy
  of some beefy illiterate burner,
giver of rings, or depend for bread on the moods of a
  Baroque Prince, expected
like his dwarf, to amuse? After all, it's rather a privilege
  amid the affluent traffic
to serve this unpopular art which cannot be turned into
  background noise for study
or hung as a status trophy by rising executives,
  cannot be 'done' like Venice
or abridged like Tolstoy, but stubbornly still insists upon
  being read or ignored…

Only a slight loosening of the plaits distinguishes Ashbery's shapely free verse recitatives from Auden's syllables, and Ashbery is ...

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