American Writers, Supplement III by Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz

By Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz

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This documentary distancing, which Ashbery developed in "Europe," now occurs without calling too much attention to itself. At the other stylistic extreme, "Schehera- WRITERS zade" begins with a shorthand, gnarled scene description: Unsupported by reason's enigma Water collects in squared stone catch basins. The land is dry. Under it moves The water. Fish live in the wells. The leaves, A concerned green, are scrawled on the light. Bad Bindweed and rank ragweed somehow forget to flourish here. An inexhaustible wardrobe has been placed at the disposal Of each new occurrence.

Recent biographical research shows that at age eighteen Barnes lived for two or three months with fifty-two-year-old Percy Faulkner, the brother of her father's mistress, following an unofficial family ceremony in the farmhouse. She had many lovers in the next few years, including Courtenay Lemon, a scriptwriter with whom she lived in Greenwich Village for two years (1917-1919). By the age of twenty Barnes was in New York City, studying at the Pratt Institute of Art and the Art Students League.

The best-known tapestry for depicting " 'history' in the making," the seventy-meter-long Bayeux Tapestry (ca. 1082), which Ashbery had seen in France, narrates the Norman Conquest, climaxing in the Battle of Hastings, where Harold is shown blinded by an arrow stitch to the eye. " "Tapestry" is a dazzling display of Ashbery's ability to compose on several fronts simultaneously: self-reflexive, aesthetic, political, philosophical (Plato's cave), and personal. This twenty-two line poem, like the twentypage "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," ex- JOHN ASHBERY I 23 amines what art means, and only a poet who has studied and written about art for years could have written it.

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