Analyze the poem "Worsening Situation" by John Ashbery.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

 

“Worsening Situation” was published in John Ashbery’s 1975 poetry collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.  As the book title suggests, this free-verse poem is in many ways Ashbery’s convoluted consideration of himself.  Although on the surface it reads like meaningless obscurity, which Ashbery often strove for in his art, a deeper analysis will reveal that it is indeed a self-portrait, which projects a dream-like tone of sadness. He opens with a rainstorm washing colors over him. A washing rain is generally considered cleansing; color is usually cheerful. Yet Ashbery says these things cannot help him, giving the analogy of a person unable to eat at a feast because there are too many dishes to choose from.  The sense is that he is overwhelmed.  But by what?

The synecdoche—a form of figurative speech in which a part stands in for the whole—of the severed hand lends a clue. As a poet, it is his hand, somehow separate from him, that...

(The entire section contains 488 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on