John Ashbery “Sings a Song of Thingness”: On Marianne Moore and the Hudson House

1960s: Days of Rage

Hudson: Lamps of different shapes and sizes and decorative wallpaper from numerous small collections. Master bedroom.

“John Ashbery has been having a virtual conversation with Marianne Moore about the ideal relationship between people and things ever since the publication of his first book, Some Trees (1956). An admitted admirer of Moore’s poetry, Ashbery directly revises Moore’s poetry and ideas even in that first volume. The volume flirts with Moore-like precision, but in its own way, focusing instead on ‘some precision’ (‘Popular Songs’), ‘dissolving’ (‘Errors’), and ‘Arranging by chance’ (‘Some Trees’). This interest in identifying poems’ exactnesses as an accident allows Ashbery to begin a long process of contemplating not only the way a poet views a thing, but also how that complex vision comes together in a poem and in a poet. In Some Trees, Ashbery responds to Moore’s preoccupation with people and things by challenging some of her…

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