In the latest issue:

The Politics of Like and Dislike

William Davies

The Shrine

Alan Bennett

After the Shock

Adam Tooze

Punishment by Pressing

Hazel V. Carby

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders

Short Cuts: Thanington Without

Patrick Cockburn

The Lessons of Reconstruction

Randall Kennedy

Company-States

Linda Colley

Eva Hesse

Anne Wagner

Parachuted into France

Neal Ascherson

The Age of Sail

N.A.M. Rodger

Poem: ‘Near Gleann nam Fiadh’

Robin Robertson

‘You People’

Clare Bucknell

What Didn’t Happen

Michael Wood

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone

Diary: In Ashgabat

James Lomax

Die MeistersingerJohn Ashbery
Close
Close
Vol. 38 No. 6 · 17 March 2016
Poem

Die Meistersinger

John Ashbery

310 words

Only​ those who actively dislike poetry didn’t like him. The others could care less. There were too many other things to worry about, like is my licence expired yet? Fortunately there were a few in-between, those who school themselves to take an interest in everything, which is not to say they’re not truly, deeply interested in the things that matter most. To them he was a special case, something to take home and place on the library table, and talk about. To them he was truly unique, like the first in what would become a memorable series.

Mostly these were opera lovers, lovers of all opera, whether by Verdi, Wagner, Gluck or Puccini. They adored this category, which to them was almost as a false religion, something that would have repercussions later but now we are enjoying it with no regrets, like a freshly cooked fish. And so he got off lightly, amid the ceremony of unsnapping pyramid-folded dinner napkins and making conversation about trivial subjects, the better to enjoy the illicit feast that was rolling down the rails toward them. ‘You’ll be my fancy, won’t you?’ Yes indeed, once I polish off this ephemeral morsel. Then we’ll all be more or less part of the conversation, which will lead to enlightenment.

Not so fast, though. He was raising himself, like a pudding on a platter. ‘You guys know where you are? I’m trying to figure out what in hell’s going on. So is he too,’ he added, waving his fork at the piebald host, who pressed a napkin to his exquisite lip.

‘No need to panic, folks. Our friend is but the first in a series that may well turn out to be infinite, if past experience is any indicator.’

The clock is running over, and an octopus wears my wallet now.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences