In Ashbery’s 1987 collection, ballads, folklore, and fairy tales mesh with the anxieties and idioms of modern life
For a book by one of the leading avant-garde poets of modern literature, John Ashbery’s April Galleons is suffused with voices from the past. There are echoes of the Romantics in the elegiac “A Mood of Quiet Beauty” and “Vetiver,” allusions to ballads and folkloric epics in “Finnish Rhapsody” and “Forgotten Song,” and veiled references to legends, folk songs, and fairy tales. But as always with Ashbery, the modern world is the microphone through which these past voices are made to speak, amplified and invigorated by Ashbery’s signature wit and generosity of spirit.
A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year in which it was first published, April Galleons is a must-read collection from a notable period in John Ashbery’s long and lauded career.