From the Ashbery Collection.
The Unwritten Conversations:
Grice: Your poem, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” it is said, notably
expanded the range of your addressees.
Ashbery: It did. The compilation was a best-seller, as the Americans call it.
Grice: But you _are_ an American.
Grice: Isn’t the phrase, “as the Americans call it,” supposed to be used by
those who ain’t?
Ashbery: Nay, Paul. That’s an implicature! Never an entailment.
Grice: Anyways, the poem, as I was saying, appears philosophically more
continuous than some of your, shall I say, more trite poems, in the sense that
your “Self-Portrait” carries some sort of argument through to the end.
Ashbery: If you _get_ to the end. My sister didn’t.
Grice: I didn’t know you had a sister.
Ashbery: I don’t. That’s why she never got to the end.
Grice: I guess you’ve been reading my treatment of definite descriptions in
Ashbery: I love your guesses.
Grice: Thanks. Do you want to do that again, or is that something you wanted to
do just _that_ time?
Ashbery: Are you crazy, Paul? Of course it was a one-off, as the Americans say.
Grice: Actually, the Dutch, too!
Ashbery: But in Dutch, I guess.
Grice: I love your guesses.
Ashbery: Well, then, I’ll say this: I do guess that the “Self-Portrait” is
something that I wanted to do just that one time and I think its continuity is
actually very specious.
Grice: Be perspicuous!
Grice: Well, you know: don’t multiply senses beyond necessity. “Specious”
originally meant (and thus should _always_ mean) ‘pleasing to the sight,’
‘fair’. It is true that by uttering ‘specious’ you can _implicate_ ‘seemingly
desirable, reasonable or probable, but not really so,’ and even ‘superficially
fair, just, or correct.’
Ashbery: I guess we have to blame the Romans with their ‘species’ and
Grice: I guess, too.
Ashbery: In any case, I’ll say this, too: that poem has fooled a lot of people
– and smart, too!
Grice: Why do you explicate that?
Ashbery: Well, I guess that if the poem is examined closely, it may be found to
Grice: Are you implicating that you have _not_ examined the poem closely _as
you wrote it_.
Ashbery: Course not, Paul! Do you think I’m an examiner. I’m a poet!
Grice: But then, since when “be coherent” is a maxim poets should abide with.
Recall Plato in “The Republic”. You studied that at Harvard!
Ashbery: You guess right. In any case…
Grice: What care do you implicate?
Ashbery: Stop it, Paul. In any case, “Self-Portrait” is _not_ a poem I
Grice: But aren’t poems supposed to be conceived as to please their addresees?
Ashbery: Paul: your jargon bores me. Where has Popper gone? I thought I had
seen him peeping through that door.
Grice: He was. But he vanished when you started talking ‘implicature’!
Ashbery: In any case, while you make a good point about a poet’s intention
being addressee-oriented, if you must use your jargon, I must say
“Self-Portrait” seems too serious.”
Grice: What do you implicate, ‘too’.
Ashbery: The antonym of “funny.”
Grice: “funny ha ha”?
Ashbery: No. “funny queer.”
Grice: I see.
Ashbery: If you see this, your vision is better than mine, to echo Humpty
Dumpty’s repartee to Alice Hargreaves, you, Oxonian, you!
Grice: One last point. Do you agree with McEvoy when in his “Modern Poetry and
Its Underlying Structures of Thought: Banality vs. Profundity” calls your
Ashbery: I think Professor McEvoy is referring to just one _line_; but yes.
It’s not something Americans would say, ‘phoney-baloney,’ but it has a *ring*
Grice: And an attached implicature to it, too, I guess.
Ashbery: Keep guessing, Paul – keep guessing.
Ashbery, John, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” in Selected Poems, Penguin,
Ashbery, John, and Mark Ford, John Ashbery in Conversation with Mark Ford,
Between the Lines.
Bloom, Harold, ed., Modern Critical Views: John Ashbery, Chelsea House
Criswell, David, The Rise and Fall of the Holy Roman Empire: From Charlemagne
to Napolean, PublishAmerica.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, “The Over-Soul,” in Emerson's Essays, Harper Perennial,
Franklin, David, The Art of Parmigianino, Yale University Press.
Friedlaender, W., Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting, Columbia
Hart, Frederick, “Part Four: The Renaissance,” in Art: A History of Painting,
Sculpture, Architecture, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, Prentice-Hall, pp. 627-44.
Heffernan, James A. W., The Poetics of Ekphrasis: From Homer to Ashbery,
University of Chicago Press.
Herd, David, “John Ashbery in Conversation: The Communicative Value of
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” in John Ashbery and Poetry, Manchester
University Press, pp. 144-78.
Kalstone, David, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” in Bloom's Modern Critical
Views: John Ashbery, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers, pp.
Leckie, Ross, “Art, Mimesis, and John Ashbery's ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex
Mirror’,” in Essays in Literature, Vol. XIX, No. 1, pp. 114-31
Looper, Travis, “Ashbery's ‘Self-Portrait,’” in Papers on Language and
Literature, Vol. 28, No. 4, Fall 1992, pp. 451-56.
Moramarco, Fred, “John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara: The Painterly Poets,” in
Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 436-62.
Plato, Meno, translated by. R. W. Sharples, Aris & Phillips.
Shapiro, David, “Prolegomenon: The Mirror Staged” in John Ashbery: An
Introduction to the Poetry, Columbia University Press, pp. 177-78.
Stamelman, Richard, “Critical Reflections: Poetry and Art Criticism in
Ashbery's ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,’” in New Literary History, Vol.
15, No. 3, pp. 607-30.