A 1995 collection of poems that finds John Ashbery at his most conversational, funny, and surprising
In Can You Hear, Bird, John Ashbery’s seventeenth collection, language is both a plaything and a sandbox. The poems are arranged not in the order of their composition but alphabetically, by the first letter in their titles, like the neatly arrayed keys of some fabulous Seussical instrument. In line after line, Ashbery demonstrates his alertness to language as it is spoken, heard, broadcast, and dreamed—and sets himself the task of rewriting, redefining, and revising the American idiom we think we know so well. Can You Hear, Bird is a decisive example of the uniquely Ashberyan sensibility his many fans love, revealing a generous and acute chronicler of the everyday bizarre, an observant and humane humorist, and an ear trained on decoding our modern world’s beguiling polyphony.