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)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Fire and Tears: a meditation, VAHNI CAPILDEO Grodzinksi’s Kosher Bakery and other poems, MICHAEL BRETT Vienna, MARIUS KOCIEJOWSKI In conversation with John Ash, JEFFREY KAHRS Play it all the way through, first – but slowly, KIRTSY GUNN
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

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