Monday 15 December 2014

Some Trees

Workwhelmed again - time for a poem. This is John Ashbery's Some Trees, the title poem of his first collection. It won him the Yale Younger Poets Prize, though W.H. Auden, who judged it, later claimed he hadn't understood a word of the winning manuscript. This seems unlikely. Some Trees is hardly obscure or experimental - it's even rhymed, more or less. Explicable meaning, as ever with Ashbery, tends to swim in and out of focus, and there are private meanings in here (to do with Ashbery's love for Fank O'Hara; 'these accents' in the last line might even be a reference to their shared non-Harvard accents). But it works on its own terms, without inside knowledge, and at the least makes a beautiful music...

Some Trees

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, Nige, you can be the last word in old world elegance and grace. "Sorry, I'm too busy to talk now, but here's a nice poem while you wait".