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Paradoxes and Oxymorons Essay

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A widely published poet and fiction writer, Semansky teaches literature at Portland Community College. In the following essay, Semansky argues that Ashbery's "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" is a poem with indeterminate meaning.

Many people resist reading modern poetry because they think it is difficult to understand. They believe there is a hidden or secret meaning that must be ferreted out and that if they do not know the code, they will not understand what the poem is about. That poems are "about" something is an idea that much modern and contemporary poetry itself has questioned. Some recent literary theorists maintain that there is no absolute "aboutness," or theme, to literary texts, that ultimate meaning itself is an impossibility. Indeterminacy, these theorists argue, is the nature of literary texts, for their real meaning can never be known. John Ashbery's difficult and obscure poetry has helped to legitimize (and popularize) the...

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This section contains 1,558 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Paradoxes and Oxymorons Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
Paradoxes and Oxymorons from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.