Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run


By (author) John Ashbery

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  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 72 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 208mm x 6mm | 100g
  • Publication date: 30 September 1999
  • Publication City/Country: Manchester
  • ISBN 10: 1857544358
  • ISBN 13: 9781857544350
  • Sales rank: 324,224

Product description

This work is a poem loosely based on the works of the "outsider" artist Henry Darger (1892-1972), a recluse who toiled for decades at an enormous illustrated novel about the adventures of a plucky band of little girls. The Vivians are threatened by human tormentors, supernatural demons and cataclysmic storms; their calmer moments are passed in Edenic landscapes. Darger traced the figures from comic strips, colouring books and other ephemeral sources, filling in the backgrounds with luscious watercolour. John Ashbery's "Girls on the Run" creates a similar childlike world of dreamy landscapes, lurking terror and veiled eroticism. Its fractured narrative mode almost (but never quite) coalesces into a surrealist adventure story.

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Author information

John Ashbery is the author of more than twenty books of poetry. He is the recipient of many honours, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur 'genius' award. Born in Rochester, New York, he was educated at Harvard and Columbia. In 1955 he went to France on a Fulbright Scholarship and spent much of the next decade there, including several years as art critic of the International Herald Tribune and Paris correspondent of ArtNews magazine. Ashbery's research on the life and works of Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) resulted in several groundbreaking articles, as well as the appearance in print of the first unpublished work of the writer to come to light after his death. His translations include works by Roussel, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Stephane Mallarme, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and many others. His 2008 translation of Pierre Martory's The Landscapist was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. The French government has appointed Ashbery as both Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Officier of the Legion d'Honneur.

Review quote

'Praised as a magical genius, cursed as an obscure joker, John Ashbery writes poetry like no one else.' The Independent 'Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood: Ashbery communicates in a way that both pays homage to language and transcends it at the same time.' The Guardian

Editorial reviews

Ashbery dips his bucket into the well for his 19th volume, and emerges with a book-length poem inspired by the lusty dreamlike work of "outsider" artist Henry Darger. While the poem resembles a story, full of figures of fun like Dimples, Jane, Persnickety, and others with prurient appellations, Girls on the Run is a nonstory. Rather, it's a jubilantly mannerist series of occasions. Events happen: "Hungeringly, Tidbit approached the crone who held the bowl, / . . . . drank the honey. It had good things about it. / Now, pretty as a moment, / Tidbit's housecoat sniffed the indecipherable." Meta-commentary, which describes the poem's total aesthetic, accompanies these happenings. For example, "See, they need to have a storyline. Sexy. So it appears. / The seven colors are remanded," As in his last volume, Wakefulness, this latest poem is far from autumnal. It's an unexpected supreme collection, a surrealist comic effort with panel after panel of loopy, glorious lines: "Slush and feathers. The hippo trod on a pine needle, they all sank back into relief / Everywhere we go is something to eat / and fat disappointment, tears in the rain. Somebody is coming over the radio. / A lull."; "Sometimes they were in sordid situations; / at others, a smidgen of fun would intrude on our day, / which exists to be intruded upon anyway." As vital, rambunctious, inventive, and outsiderish as ever. (Kirkus Reviews)