Without a doubt, Ashbery can be daunting to read. Five lines in and you can start to feel lost. What you expected to find based on the title or opening line is fading in the distance. Keep going and your second and third assumptions seem like childish fancies.

The Slate article I linked to at the bottom of “No, I Don’t” offers some tips on navigating Ashbery. “Navigate” is a good word. I think of reading Ashbery (whose poetry I relish but, more often than not, don’t get) as floating on an ocean. You dip in and out of swells, sometimes noticing seaweed pass by or the shadow of a fish, occasionally paying attention to the direction and strength of the current and — hey, look, there’s a cloud.

In other words, I just enjoy the ride of Ashbery. Certain lines click with something I’ve experienced, felt or thought. Or they resemble something I know about. Others are just the movement of a wave taking me to the next set of lines.


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