Monday, June 27, 2005

Derrida's Ashbery

"[Mills-Courts] culminating chapter posits Ashbery as Derrida's closest cousin among postmodernist poets mainly because his poetry expresses the epitaphic way in which she feels language works. Throughout the book she argues that language, and specifically poetry, resembles a gravestone marking the presence of its absent author and the absence of its author's presence. It is a dead representation haunted by the presence of a dead but somehow living person, one who once intended meanings though they are now obscure (not unfathomable or nonexistent, as some deconstructionists would maintain). In short, poetic language is Derridean as well as Heideggerean. Ashbery bridges these contraries,

Mills-Courts believes, like no other contemporary poet. He is radically skeptical of language's power to present or incarnate the spirit of the authorial logos, but still he believes--and this is why Mills-Courts celebrates him—in "Poetry as performance, as an epitaphic endeavor that displays both the absence and the presence of an intending ‘I,' poetry that does not delude itself into believing that it has captured self-presence in a privileged moment, [but still exerts] . . . hope against all odds." For Mills-Courts Ashbery is heroic and exemplary because he deconstructs the sacred tenets of the logocentric tradition, yet he never bottoms-out in nihilistic despair. His poetry keeps questioning and questing, tracing an elegant, quixotic path toward self-representation that never completely arrives. It resists the death of all conclusive representations and resolutions, all its temporary domiciles along the romantic way, in order to generate the desire for new ones which, in turn, must be deemed tentative and dismantled in order to keep the ongoing quest going on."

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