Pastiche and the Commodity of Tone: Reading and Writing to Ashbery’s Where Shall I Wander?

Michael Farrell

Friday 30 April, 2010, from 1 to 3 pm

Bon Marche Studio (UTS Bldg 3, Lvl. 1, Rm. 105)

Presentation: 20mins

In my paper I will discuss and demonstrate the appropriation of tone and form in a series of poems I wrote in 2006 while reading John Ashbery’s Where Shall I Wander? (2005), focusing on one example. Over a total of nineteen poems I used Ashbery’s original poems as ‘templates’ for my own poems: using his word counts and punctuation exactly. Such a practice could be described as ‘conceptual formalism’, taking note of the currency that the term conceptualism has in American post-avant criticism (see, for example, Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s Notes on Conceptualisms (2009)). In other words, each Ashbery poem is read as an established form to be imitated, as if it were a sonnet. The typographical forms of Where Shall I Wander? are not particularly distinctive, so if my poems are apparently Ashberian, this might have something to do with tone and style. To what extent are these qualities (commodities) available for import? Does pastiche gain from such ‘close writing’? What of the commercial nature of these commodities / this gain – what makes people (editors, if not readers) – buy it? (I have published most of the poems in this series in paid venues: including the Best Australian Poems anthologies in 2007 and 2008.)

Michael Farrell is PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne

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4 Responses to “Pastiche and the Commodity of Tone: Reading and Writing to Ashbery’s <i>Where Shall I Wander</i>?”


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