The Same Old Things
Let's begin, alone, "with our madness and favourite flower."
by John Ashbery
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.
Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.
– from As we Know by John Ashbery
"There was in the person and there is in the work such a mixture of genius and modesty, ambition and gentle irony, innovation and deliberate unoriginality, that it sounds a little off, maybe a little stuffy, to speak of John Ashbery’s greatness."
I treasure Ashbery's poem, "Late Echo," because of what he says about writing the same old things. I treasure it because he writes originally about having nothing left to write about, about the necessity of repetition.
Our themes are often right in front of us. Our subject matter. No one admonishes potters for making the same bowl over and over. An artist paints the same mountain again and again.
You'd think there were enough poems about leaves. But there aren't. Even if you've written a dozen fall poems, there is room in this world for more. More poems about leaves, too. The most beautiful poem about a leaf has yet to be written and perhaps you are the one to write it.
Likewise with photographs. Who tires of seeing a wonderful photo of a leaf? Each one is so unique, after all.