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)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
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)
Next Issue Iain Bamforth On the Surface of Events Phoebe Power Once More the Sea Aram Saroyan About Lew Welch Walter Bruno Once more, on Value and English Lit Jenny King Moving Day and other poems
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This review is taken from PN Review 192, Volume 36 Number 4, March - April 2010.

THE WHOLE LIGHT CHANGES DANIEL KANE, We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Poetry and Cinema (University of Iowa Press) $39.95

Onstage: The Velvet Underground, performing ‘Venus in Furs’ or a lengthy cacophonous drone improvisation; a pulsating light show is being projected onto the band, along with scenes from Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls, and bare-chested young poet-god Gerard Malanga is prancing around in the throes of his much celebrated whip-dance. Did John Ashbery ever attend a manifestation of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable?

These decibels
Are a kind of flagellation, an entity of sound
Into which being enters, and is apart.

Perhaps it was here that a distant, slightly disdainful Ashbery reflected on the momentariness of novelty, the thin ice of contemporary culture and its ever-new preoccupation with sexuality and the sensational, wishing, or half-wishing, he was somewhere else entirely, listening to a baroque ensemble playing Bach, perhaps, but recognising, in any case, that

                                          The human mind
Cannot retain anything except perhaps the dismal two-note theme
Of some sodden ‘dump’ or lament

It’s the evanescence of time-experience, its will o’ the wisp quality, its friable (grainy, crumbling) and fluctuant (dangerous, treacherous) character, that both captures him and seems to remove him from the immediate scene: a sort of wipeout experience, which he points to here in a characteristically filmic image: ‘But the water surface ripples, the whole light changes’.

Whether or not this is a true location for the opening of Ashbery’s long poem ‘The Skaters’, Daniel Kane’s We Saw the Light makes ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image