And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name

By John Ashbery b. 1927 John Ashbery
You can’t say it that way any more.   
Bothered about beauty you have to   
Come out into the open, into a clearing,
And rest. Certainly whatever funny happens to you
Is OK. To demand more than this would be strange
Of you, you who have so many lovers,   
People who look up to you and are willing   
To do things for you, but you think
It’s not right, that if they really knew you . . .
So much for self-analysis. Now,
About what to put in your poem-painting:   
Flowers are always nice, particularly delphinium.   
Names of boys you once knew and their sleds,   
Skyrockets are good—do they still exist?
There are a lot of other things of the same quality   
As those I’ve mentioned. Now one must
Find a few important words, and a lot of low-keyed,
Dull-sounding ones. She approached me
About buying her desk. Suddenly the street was   
Bananas and the clangor of Japanese instruments.   
Humdrum testaments were scattered around. His head
Locked into mine. We were a seesaw. Something   
Ought to be written about how this affects   
You when you write poetry:
The extreme austerity of an almost empty mind
Colliding with the lush, Rousseau-like foliage of its desire to communicate   
Something between breaths, if only for the sake   
Of others and their desire to understand you and desert you
For other centers of communication, so that understanding
May begin, and in doing so be undone.

John Ashbery, “And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name” from Houseboat Days. Copyright © 1987, 1979 by John Ashbery. Reprinted with the permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc. for the author.

Source: Houseboat Days (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1987)

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Poet John Ashbery b. 1927

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Living, The Mind

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 John  Ashbery

Biography

John Ashbery is recognized as one of the greatest twentieth-century American poets. He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Yale Younger Poets Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Griffin International Award, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Ashbery's poetry challenges its readers to discard all presumptions about the aims, themes, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Living, The Mind

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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