Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I have a face that stays mostly on the front of my head

The title to this post is a line from a Ron Padgett poem, but I'm going to talk about John Ashbery right now. Ashbery's contribution really made visual poetry "click" for me. Being acquainted with his more traditional "lines on paper" poetry, I saw the same voice and sentiment revealed in both mediums: eclectic pop culture references, whimsy/irreverence, interrelating the high and low and most importantly a real aesthetic beauty. It is even arguable that Ashbery's lack of narrative "I" and audience in much of his verse really comes through in these visual works as well. As postcards, they are meant to be delivered. Ashbery stunts that ritual by manipulating the message (with his collage) and betraying the audience (by not sending them).