Notes from the Air )? That Ashbery is as prolific in his 80s as ever? Yes, there are 99 new poems, sequenced al"/>

Planisphere

John Ashbery, Author . Ecco $24.99 (143p) ISBN 978-0-06-191521-5

What can one say about a new book by John Ashbery (Notes from the Air )? That Ashbery is as prolific in his 80s as ever? Yes, there are 99 new poems, sequenced alphabetically and most of them a page long, in this book. That his wit is still sharp, the poems still rife with clever juxtapositions and colliding voices? Absolutely. That he still culls from the highs and lows of culture, making for unlikely yet somehow inevitable meetings? Of course: “I'm barely twenty six, have been on Oprah/ and such,” he says in a poem that also asks, thinking of mortality as he has been of late, “The song that started/ in the middle, did that close down too?” That perhaps Ashbery has learned a thing or two from his own legions of imitators and acolytes? That's harder to prove, but almost certainly true (note the hip and lovely cover by poet/designer Jeff Clark). That, as in his last several books, there's nothing entirely new , but that the poems are almost always satisfying and strange? Indeed. And that, perhaps most surprising, depending on one's biases, this, Ashbery's 28th volume of poems, ranks among the most vital collections of the year. Or maybe that's not a surprise at all. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/16/2009
Release date: 12/01/2009
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