Woof Essays

Teacher’s Guides

Let God Be God https://pdp.acsi.org/pdp/ProductInfo/HBLGT.aspx

Timeless Truth https://pdp.acsi.org/pdp/ProductInfo/7065S.aspx

  • 22 Essays, Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, Rowen & Littlefield, 2016.
  • 17 essays, Encyclopedia for Christian Education, Rowan & Littlefield, 2015.
  • “King Maker in Dorothy Sayers’ The Mind of The Maker,” Inklings Forever: Volume 9, Francis White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis and Friends, 2014.
  • “Author without Authority: Stephen Crane and The Red Badge of Courage,” Intégrité: A Journal of Faith and Learning, Spring, 2013.
  • “The Graveyard Schools the Schoolyard: Contemplation of Death for Education in Life,”
    Intėgritė: A Journal of Faith and Learning, 10:1, Spring, 2011.
  • “Devils in My Heart: Chesterton’s View of Human Nature through Father Brown,”
    Inklings Forever, vol. VII, C.S. Lewis and Friends, Taylor University, 2010.
  • “Not Textbooks, Text-People: Hebrew Ideals of Education,” Intégrité 8:2, Fall, 2009.
  • “A Story of Transformation: Example of Adult Learning,” Intégrité 7:2, Fall, 2008.
  • Science Fiction & The Abolition of Man (See Chapter 2)
  • “Something at Work in My Soul” (Find the start of the article on page 3)
  • “Interdisciplinarity Education within Biblical Theology“

There are several prose pieces in the book, of which ''Description of a Masque,'' with its figures from nursery songs and movies, struck me as being the most ingenious and entertaining. There is some collage of another kind - the ''37 Haiku,'' long single lines in a seemingly random series. A flip pop song, ''The Songs We Know Best,'' seems confectionary to me, as do the ''Variations on a Noel,'' which travesties too mechanically the repetitions of a villanelle. At the end of the book,the long title poem combines into a grand undulation (with no allusion to Hokusai's waves) much that is elsewhere corpuscular, if not scattered.

The title poem is diffuse, too wordy, even slack in parts, but fascinating insofar as it shows how expansive, racy and incisive Mr. Ashbery's vocabulary can become without snapping its tendons. Syntax is a key. It is often labyrinthine, reaching suddenly around corners to stunning vistas. Through the vistas, crisp figures dance, ''looming'' (one of his favorite words) out of nowhere, ''bathed'' (another favorite) in luminous colors. Recurrent figures elsewhere are the carrousel and the parachute - the vertiginous whirl and the slow, wrenching fall. Attention is stretched to a limit when dependent qualifying or comparative clauses in a sentence are so prolonged as to lose contact with main verbs, even when the poet's voice never falters in providing a regulative pulse, good clear sound and an air of command. Reprieve comes when such mazy chains of discourse swing out into abrupt metaphor, as in these lines from ''So Many Lives'': Because the effort of staying back to side with someone For whom number is everything Will finally unplug the dark.

Metaphors like that one crystallize as they expand perceptions, and they are key moments in the timing of the vocal changes: No, there is no room now For oceans, blizzards, only night, with fingers of steel Pressing the lost lid, searching for ever unquietly the

mechanism To unclasp all this into warbled sunlight.

Abrupt, but complex, metaphor is one key element in the undulance of the voice and its syntax. Another is a sort of gliding paradox. The poem ''Rain Moving In,'' for instance, seems to be a hive of cryptic contradictions. ''But'' and ''meanwhile'' are the unassuming words that buzz in that hive, terms around which paradox swivels - ''the step / Into disorder'':

The dial has been set

And that's ominous, but all your graciousness in living

Conspires with it.

Here ''and,'' not ''but,'' would have been the predictable conjunction. The poem, terse as it is, is unnerving, yet it ends placidly enough. Its counterlogic typically depends on an adroit ungreasing of normally lubricant parts of speech. Meanwhile, all ''normal'' perspectives are being effortlessly deregulated. Amid such pervasive shifting, while the voice remains level as ever (but not deadpan since it rumples everything), the poem unfolds as what might be called a polygram.

Into the poet's voice are blended more than once or twice certain ancestral voices. I was reminded of Jules Laforgue, for a start, when reading ''When the Sun Went Down.'' Over the years, orchestrating it with instruments from Dada, Surrealism and the New York School, and with a certain dash of brass from W. H. Auden, I suspect, Mr. Ashbery has been amplifying a dream of Laforgue's - ''a kind of poetry that says nothing, that is made up of pieces of disconnected dream,'' as Laforgue wrote in 1882, or, as he said of Baudelaire, poems ''vague and inconsequential as the flutter of a fan, as equivocal as make-up . . . detached . . . without a definite subject.''

Insofar as Mr. Ashbery's poems - polished to transparency by their gyroscopic motions and their countermotions to received speech - whizz out and around in a breezy lyric space, he has certainly brought out of Laforgue's dream the strangest tensions: as the luckless describe love in glowing terms to

strangers In taverns, and the seemingly blessed may be unaware

of having lost it, So always there is a small remmant Whose lives are congruent with their souls And who ever afterward know no mystery in it, The cimmerian moment in which all lives, all destinies And incompleted destinies were swamped As though by a giant wave that picks itself up Out of a calm sea and retreats again into nowhere Once its damage is done.

And if there's any tacit ''philosophy'' of sheer surface in these poems, it is neither innocent nor tormented, but ironic. From beyond dualism, it brings to the checkered history of estheticism over the past century a fund of fresh delight. The desolate figures of Narcissus and the Dandy haunt that history still, but a personal glow is restored to them, a wonder is renewed.B

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