Harold Bloom calls John Ashbery in the upcoming Poetry Issue of the Sunday New York Times Book Review “our major poet since the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955.” I don’t know where that leaves Allen Ginsberg, for example, but it seems a highly dubious claim, especially given inscrutable, maddening lines like these, from a poem called “Silhouette” in As We Know:
In the white mouths
Of your oppressors, however, much
Was seen to provoke. And the way
Though discontinuous, and intermittent, sometimes
Not heard of for years at a time, did,
Nonetheless, move up, although, to his surprise
It was inside the house,
And always getting narrower.
All of Ashbery’s poems read like this. Way too many commas, way too many subordinate clauses, way too little in the way of meaning. I take nothing away from them but frustration.