“I regard the poet as the best of all critics.”—Baudelaire
As English Departments inexorably abandon Texts in favor of spectral canons of Distrust and Disbelief, it falls now, as throughout literary history it has fallen, to poets to sustain the art of reading as a natural pretext and fit occasion of new writing. After all, the “Ars Poetica” was more than a hint from Horace; it was a motive and a model too. Thus Geoffrey O’Brien makes so bold as to begin his newest collection with a 16-page poem entitled “A Story in Memory of John Ashbery.” Revisioning three genres—essay, narrative and elegy—all at once, O’Brien writes reading in the form of a task, reviving pleasures, reinventing methods and establishing a fresh and filial understanding. In prolific afterlife, Ashbery is recollected by new activity.