New Digressions

Srikanth Reddy

in Changing Subjects

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199791026
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950287 | DOI:
New Digressions

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This chapter outlines the impasse faced by a new generation of American writers who seek to extend John Ashbery’s digressive project. Ashbery’s lyric speakers commonly address the reader while drifting in a landscape of houseboats, hot air balloons, and countless other pleasure craft. These floating speakers provide a figure for what might called ‘the interiorization of drifting’ in this writer’s work. For Ashbery, the experience of inwardness is modelled upon the very rivers which convey his lyric speakers to their fugitive elsewheres; allegorizing William James’ notion of “the stream of consciousness,” this poet constructs a riverrine poetics in which both consciousness and the lyric itself follow the digressive contours of a river’s shifting topology. This afterword concludes with an examination of strategies employed by younger American poets writing in the wake of such digressive masterpieces as Houseboat Days and Flow Chart. Is it possible to extend the labyrinthine poetics of a writer who digresses without end? Finally, the chapter asks what lies “beyond digression” in American poetics of the next century.

Keywords: John Ashbery; stream of consciousness; Houseboat Days; Flow Chart

Chapter.  12094 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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