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Secretos chinos

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According to a Victorian volume called Drawing Room Amusements (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest colle According to a Victorian volume called Drawing Room Amusements (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest collection, the verbal nucleus that is the incitement toward a poem undergoes changes caused not by careless listening but by endlessly proliferating trains of ideas that a word or phrase sets into motion. The poem has been transformed, often into "something rich and strange," but the strangeness is that of thought being opened up, like a geode, to reveal unexpected facets of meaning.


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According to a Victorian volume called Drawing Room Amusements (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest colle According to a Victorian volume called Drawing Room Amusements (1879), in the game of Chinese Whispers "participants are arranged in a circle, and the first player whispers a story or message to the next player, and so on round the circle. The original story is then compared with the final version, which has often changed beyond recognition." In John Ashbery's latest collection, the verbal nucleus that is the incitement toward a poem undergoes changes caused not by careless listening but by endlessly proliferating trains of ideas that a word or phrase sets into motion. The poem has been transformed, often into "something rich and strange," but the strangeness is that of thought being opened up, like a geode, to reveal unexpected facets of meaning.

30 review for Secretos chinos

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    At the age of 75, John Ashbery still has it--whatever "it" means. For meaning is a shifting (I almost said "shifty") thing in the verse of John Ashbery. As is true of all his work, each poem is a cloud of almost-meaning, organizing fragments of speech so enticingly into an artifact of such formal excellence that the reader is seduced into participating in the poem's creation by completing the meaning for himself. As is appropriate for a book by an old man, this is about death, endings and legacy At the age of 75, John Ashbery still has it--whatever "it" means. For meaning is a shifting (I almost said "shifty") thing in the verse of John Ashbery. As is true of all his work, each poem is a cloud of almost-meaning, organizing fragments of speech so enticingly into an artifact of such formal excellence that the reader is seduced into participating in the poem's creation by completing the meaning for himself. As is appropriate for a book by an old man, this is about death, endings and legacy. Or at least that is how the meaning was completed by yours truly, an almost-as-old old man.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    I have liked reading, for instance, Mary Oliver and Donald Hall for decades, so I continue reading their works written in very old age. Why? Habit. But in part, curiosity, in part a question I have about creativity at old age. As I age, I wonder about that. Similarly, when I started running marathons at about age 55, I read that an 88 year old man had run his first marathon that year and in each of the next four years actually lowered his time in the race. That’s what I’m talking about! I want t I have liked reading, for instance, Mary Oliver and Donald Hall for decades, so I continue reading their works written in very old age. Why? Habit. But in part, curiosity, in part a question I have about creativity at old age. As I age, I wonder about that. Similarly, when I started running marathons at about age 55, I read that an 88 year old man had run his first marathon that year and in each of the next four years actually lowered his time in the race. That’s what I’m talking about! I want to know this is possible! As a young person I saw a lot of musicians and writers did their best work as young people. The early Dylan! In a few cases, though, I noticed people began doing their best work later in life, or—in rare cases--they just continue all the way through doing high quality work. Oliver and Hall’s late stuff was disappointing. The work of “old people,” I thought. But Ashbery, a much awarded poet whom I never liked quite as much of those other two, publishing a large collection at age 75, well, this seems like fresh and vigorous stuff. What’s it like? Nonsense, in a way; think Lewis Carroll, re: the limits of language and consciousness, think play. It’s poetry about sound more than sense. The Chinese Whispers reference in the book’s title is a British name for a communication game, like telephone, where one whispers something to someone else who whispers to another, all around a circle only to find that the string of phrases is not usually at all related. This is a little like the “meaning” of linked phrases in Ashbery’s poems here. Thus, these poems, and the poem below, are more absurd and surreal and playful than something we are used to reading, poems that are more lyrical or narrative. They become a kind of commentary on meaning-making through language, which doesn’t mean they can’t still be beautiful, in my opinion. Ashbery’s poems here sometimes seem to touch on old age and the passage of time, but they’re only touching on those topics, they’re not really deeply autobiographical. And they feel vaguely narrative, like Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is a narrative because it sounds like one. Anyway, I like these poems quite a bit; they feel as good as anything he ever did. He's not one of my go-to or main guys as a poet, but he's good for what he does. Not bad for an old guy! Chinese Whispers John Ashbery And in a little while we broke under the strain: suppurations ad nauseam, the wanting to be taller, though it‘s simply about being mysterious, i.e., not taller, like any tree in any forest. Mute, the pancake describes you. It had tiny roman numerals embedded in its rim. It was a pancake clock. They had ’em in those days, always getting smaller, which is why they finally became extinct. It was a hundred years before anyone noticed. The governor general called it “sinuous.” But we, we had other names for it, knew it was going to be around for a long time, even though extinct. And sure as shillelaghs fall from trees onto frozen doorsteps, it came round again when all memory of it had been expunged from the common brain. Everybody wants to try one of those new pancake clocks. A boyfriend in the next town had one but conveniently forgot to bring it over each time we invited him. Finally the rumors grew more fabulous than the real thing: I hear they are encrusted with tangles of briar rose, so dense not even a prince seeking the Sleeping Beauty could get inside. What’s more, there are more of them than when they were extinct, yet the prices keep on rising. They have them in the Hesperides and in shantytowns on the edge of the known world, blue with cold. All downtowns used to feature them. Camera obscuras, too, were big that year. But why is it that with so many people who want to know what a shout is about, nobody can find the original recipe? All too soon, no one cares. We go back to doing little things for each other, pasting stamps together to form a tiny train track, and other, less noticeable things. And the past is forgotten till next time. How to describe the years? Some were like blocks of the palest halvah, careless of being touched. Some took each others’ trash out, put each other’s eyes out. So many got thrown out before anyone noticed, that it was like a chiaroscuro of collapsing clouds. How I longed to visit you again in that old house! But you were deaf, or dead. Our letters crossed. A motorboat was ferrying me out past the reef, people on shore looked like dolls fingering stuffs. More keeps coming out, about the dogs I mean. Surely a simple embrace from an itinerant fish would have been spurned at certain periods. Not now. There is a famine of years in the land, the women are beautiful, but prematurely old and worn. It doesn’t get better. Rocks half-buried in bands of sand, and spontaneous execrations. I yell to the ship’s front door, wanting to be taller, and somewhere in the middle all this gets lost. I was a phantom for a day. My friends carried me around with them. It always turns out that much is salvageable. Chicken coops haven’t floated away on the flood. Lacemakers are back in business with a vengeance. All the locksmiths had left town during the night. It happened to be a beautiful time of season, spring or fall, the air was digestible, the fish tied in love-knots on their gurneys. Yes, and journeys were palpable too: Someone had spoken of saving appearances and the walls were just a little too blue in mid-morning. Was there ever such a time? I’d like to handle you, bruise you with kisses for it, yet something always stops me short: the knowledge that this isn‘t history, no matter how many times we keep mistaking it for the present, that headlines trumpet each day. But behind the unsightly school building, now a pickle warehouse, the true nature of things is known, is not overrided: Yours is a vote like any other. And there is fraud at the ballot boxes, stuffed with lace valentines and fortunes from automatic scales, dispensed with a lofty kind of charity, as though this could matter to us, these tunes carried by the wind from a barrel organ several leagues away. No, this is not the time to reveal your deception to us. Wait till rain and old age have softened us up a little more. Then we’ll see how extinct the various races have become, how the years stand up to their descriptions, no matter how misleading, and how long the disbanded armies stay around. I must congratulate you on your detective work, for I am a connoisseur of close embroidery, though I don’t have a diploma to show for it. The trees, the barren trees, have been described more than once. Always they are taller, it seems, and the river passes them without noticing. We, too, are taller, our ceilings higher, our walls more tinctured with telling frescoes, our dooryards both airier and vaguer, according as time passes and weaves its minute deceptions in and out, a secret thread. Peace is a full stop. And though we had some chance of slipping past the blockade, now only time will consent to have anything to do with us, for what purposes we do not know.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    Algunos poemas realmente te flashean, me gustaría copiar el que más me gustó pero es muy largo (termina así: You shouldn't make such noises/ and not mean them. There'll come a day when we'll live off noise,/ but for now the square forecourt is overgrown. I've loved some things in my time,/ cast others aside, let others fall by the wayside. The feast such/ as we now reap it is heavy, indistinct. Their voices blur. They could croon./ Each to the other thinks: It's gone. But rotten. Days will/ go o Algunos poemas realmente te flashean, me gustaría copiar el que más me gustó pero es muy largo (termina así: You shouldn't make such noises/ and not mean them. There'll come a day when we'll live off noise,/ but for now the square forecourt is overgrown. I've loved some things in my time,/ cast others aside, let others fall by the wayside. The feast such/ as we now reap it is heavy, indistinct. Their voices blur. They could croon./ Each to the other thinks: It's gone. But rotten. Days will/ go on turning themselves inside out for us, and trees warble for us,/ but not often and not very well.), también me gustaría hacer una reseña pero no puedo. Son poemas medio sin sentido, pero a la vez de repente algo vas captando, de repente te perdés, al final te quedan imágenes y sensaciones familiares, es muy cercano en un punto. Tiene humor además, eso siempre me gusta. Como todo lo que apela al sin sentido se puede volver denso y algunos poemas la verdad me resultaron más bien meh.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Francisca

    this poetry collection didn't agree with me. there must be around 50 something poems here in total but i could only remember a handful--at best. there was just a remoteness between myself and the author's perspective that i couldn't fully bridge. it's quite a shame considering john ashbery's extensive back catalogue (i do love the idea of never ending going through an author's work) but i can't really force a connection when there's none. this poetry collection didn't agree with me. there must be around 50 something poems here in total but i could only remember a handful--at best. there was just a remoteness between myself and the author's perspective that i couldn't fully bridge. it's quite a shame considering john ashbery's extensive back catalogue (i do love the idea of never ending going through an author's work) but i can't really force a connection when there's none.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kasandra

    Didn't like this on the whole as much as And the Stars Were Shining, but that's the ultimate Ashbery book, to me. I love how he ends his poems -- no matter how convoluted he gets, how many twists and turns he takes, how much vocabulary you have to look up, Ashbery knows how to end a poem so that you know you're at an end, a sort of summing up, even though his work can't at all be summarized or categorized. He is his own category, and his imagination is vast, impressive, funny, wry, forlorn, and Didn't like this on the whole as much as And the Stars Were Shining, but that's the ultimate Ashbery book, to me. I love how he ends his poems -- no matter how convoluted he gets, how many twists and turns he takes, how much vocabulary you have to look up, Ashbery knows how to end a poem so that you know you're at an end, a sort of summing up, even though his work can't at all be summarized or categorized. He is his own category, and his imagination is vast, impressive, funny, wry, forlorn, and always manages to delight. As a poet, Ashbery constantly reminds me that a poem can make its own internal kind of sense, or no sense at all, and still be magnificent, compelling, and mysterious in the best way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Annistasia

    Variety of poems, with quality ranging from genuinely challenging and thought-provoking, to frustrating meaninglessness. Don't know if I'll keep going through Ashbery's work, but the poetry here was at least a complete break from fiction and academic articles I've been chugging this past term. Also, there was a lot of fish imagery here. Like a noticeable amount? Standouts: A Nice Presentation; Unpolished Segment; Chinese Whispers why.: The Haves; Syllabus; Moon, Moon Variety of poems, with quality ranging from genuinely challenging and thought-provoking, to frustrating meaninglessness. Don't know if I'll keep going through Ashbery's work, but the poetry here was at least a complete break from fiction and academic articles I've been chugging this past term. Also, there was a lot of fish imagery here. Like a noticeable amount? Standouts: A Nice Presentation; Unpolished Segment; Chinese Whispers why.: The Haves; Syllabus; Moon, Moon

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    The trees, the barren trees, have been described more than once. Always they are taller, it seems, and the river passes them without noticing. We, too, are taller, our ceilings higher, out walls more tinctured with telling frescoes, our dooryards both airier and vaguer, according as time passes and weaves its minute deceptions in and out, a secret thread. Peace is a full stop. And though we had some chance of slipping past the blockade, now only time will consent to have anything to do with us, for what The trees, the barren trees, have been described more than once. Always they are taller, it seems, and the river passes them without noticing. We, too, are taller, our ceilings higher, out walls more tinctured with telling frescoes, our dooryards both airier and vaguer, according as time passes and weaves its minute deceptions in and out, a secret thread. Peace is a full stop. And though we had some chance of slipping past the blockade, now only time will consent to have anything to do with us, for what purposes we do not know.

  8. 4 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    4.5

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Galinaitis

    Loved the opening poems best.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zalman

    I really wanted to like this book more, because Ashbery has written some of my favorite poems. Hearing him read once, in Cambridge in the late 1970s, was an unforgettably pleasurable experience. And of course I realize that emulating, amplifying, distilling, and somehow organizing the random buzz of everyday speech and our media saturated environment, is part of Ashbery's method. I often appreciate the results, and some of the passages in "Chinese Whispers" struck me as brilliant, alive with wit I really wanted to like this book more, because Ashbery has written some of my favorite poems. Hearing him read once, in Cambridge in the late 1970s, was an unforgettably pleasurable experience. And of course I realize that emulating, amplifying, distilling, and somehow organizing the random buzz of everyday speech and our media saturated environment, is part of Ashbery's method. I often appreciate the results, and some of the passages in "Chinese Whispers" struck me as brilliant, alive with wit and uncanny insight. But more often, the coherence factor was just too low, and I felt defeated rather than enlightened or entertained. Oh well, maybe something to pick up again in another 10 years or so, if I'm still around....

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric Phetteplace

    Ashbery jams together faux philosophy, common speech, and some cool images in such a way as to create his own very distinct narratives. Some prose poems here and a lot of typical free verse that blends together. You could take any title, then jump around the book for an arbitrary length of time reading lines here and there, and you would have a poem as good as any in the book. Not that that's bad, but it does show how experiments like this sacrifice a certain specificity which can create a great Ashbery jams together faux philosophy, common speech, and some cool images in such a way as to create his own very distinct narratives. Some prose poems here and a lot of typical free verse that blends together. You could take any title, then jump around the book for an arbitrary length of time reading lines here and there, and you would have a poem as good as any in the book. Not that that's bad, but it does show how experiments like this sacrifice a certain specificity which can create a greater impact on the reader. Dean Young is the same way a lot of the time and these poems have a flow similar to his.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    Ashbery fucking rocks it. He's a hundred years old and still more prolific and elegaic and wildly, coherently abstract than anyone. Although it seems to me that some poems would benefit from some cutting, his fluidity is probably somehow inextricably wedded to his verbosity. He's a great Living Poet. Read him now before he's Dead. Ashbery fucking rocks it. He's a hundred years old and still more prolific and elegaic and wildly, coherently abstract than anyone. Although it seems to me that some poems would benefit from some cutting, his fluidity is probably somehow inextricably wedded to his verbosity. He's a great Living Poet. Read him now before he's Dead.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kent

    I have such a deep trust in Ashbery's ability to lead me into places that I had never really thought of. And so even when I feel vague through most of this book, I still find that the tone, the tonal shifts, and the imaginative possibilities are what I most want. I just wish that all of the poems were as lucid to me as "Under Cellophane." I have such a deep trust in Ashbery's ability to lead me into places that I had never really thought of. And so even when I feel vague through most of this book, I still find that the tone, the tonal shifts, and the imaginative possibilities are what I most want. I just wish that all of the poems were as lucid to me as "Under Cellophane."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I really, really want to like John Ashbery's poetry. But I just don't. Nothing will ever convince me that it's okay for a poem to make absolutely no sense, but none of the poems in this collection do. Which makes it impossible for me to enjoy them. I really, really want to like John Ashbery's poetry. But I just don't. Nothing will ever convince me that it's okay for a poem to make absolutely no sense, but none of the poems in this collection do. Which makes it impossible for me to enjoy them.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    The large thing ending up small. That's how I feel about the poems in this here book. How the sweepingness of Ashbery's gesture gets suddenly so miniscule and degraded, almost unconfortable, so as to make them, "um" "well" I don't know exactly. Sort of bitchy and breaking open at the same time. The large thing ending up small. That's how I feel about the poems in this here book. How the sweepingness of Ashbery's gesture gets suddenly so miniscule and degraded, almost unconfortable, so as to make them, "um" "well" I don't know exactly. Sort of bitchy and breaking open at the same time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric T. Voigt

    As with the Chinese whispers I'm used to this was impossible to understand and I had the sneaking suspicion I was being judged the entire time I was in the restaurant. As with the Chinese whispers I'm used to this was impossible to understand and I had the sneaking suspicion I was being judged the entire time I was in the restaurant.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

    More from American poet John Ashbery. A lot of randomness in his work: like a waterfall of words. Like Guided by Voices? Like Pavement? You'll like Ashbery. More from American poet John Ashbery. A lot of randomness in his work: like a waterfall of words. Like Guided by Voices? Like Pavement? You'll like Ashbery.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adam Fitzgerald

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarolina

  21. 5 out of 5

    William Egger

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ami

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joaquín Guirao

  25. 5 out of 5

    Harper

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Avramescu

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Vanner

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ashberian

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lera Auerbach

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