John Ashbery is one of those modern American poets whose work excites me at the same time that it confounds me. His is the sort of work that is imperative to read aloud. It's also equally important not to get too caught up in whether or not the poem makes sense on an obvious level. Poems "work" in a variety of ways, and Ashbery is one of those poets whose product "works" for me in ways I cannot always explain. This is my favorite of his. (Note: Annika had a good post up yesterday about his work and the work of other "difficult" poets.)
At North Farm
Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?
Rightly or wrongly, I read that poem through a Christian lens -- and it has a vague feeling of Advent anticipation to it.