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Flow Chart by John Ashbery
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Flow Chart (1991)

by John Ashbery

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374525498, Paperback)

"Reticent, shy, unfailingly modern, Ashbery is as unorthodox [as] any of the great twentieth-century creators: Breton, Stravinsky, Picasso," observed Jeremy Reed in Britain's Poetry Review. "We are privileged to be around at a time when he is writing." Flow Chart, a book-length poem that first appeared in 1991, might be Ashbery's greatest creation: a staggering and exuberant "torrent of invention [that] comes as close to an epic poem as our postmodern, nonlinear, deconstructed sensibilities will allow. . . . "

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:50 -0400)

A quintessentially American epic poem that rewrites all the rules of epic poetry-starting with the one that says epic poetry can't be about the writing of epic poetry itself The appearance of Flow Chart in 1991 marked the kickoff of a remarkably prolific period in John Ashbery's long career, a decade during which he published seven all-new books of poetry as well as a collected series of lectures on poetic form and practice. So it comes as no surprise that this book-length poem-one of the longest ever written by an American poet-reads like a rocket launch: charged, propulsive, mesmerizing, a series of careful explosions that, together, create a radical forward motion. It's been said that Flow Chart was written in response to a dare of sorts: Artist and friend Trevor Winkfield suggested that Ashbery write a poem of exactly one hundred pages, a challenge that Ashbery took up with plans to complete the poem in one hundred days. But the celebrated work that ultimately emerged from its squared-off origin story was one that the poet himself called "a continuum, a diary." In six connected, constantly surprising movements of free verse-with the famous "sunflower" double sestina thrown in, just to reinforce the poem's own multivarious logic-Ashbery's poem maps a path through modern American consciousness with all its attendant noise, clamor, and signal: "Words, however, are not the culprit. They are at worst a placebo, / leading nowhere (though nowhere, it must be added, can sometimes be a cozy / place, preferable in many cases to somewhere)."… (more)

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