Quick Question was enjoyed by the group; we all found something to like in it. We agreed that dipping in was the best way to enjoy Ashbery as we found we couldn’t consume many poems in one sitting. Some of us found lines that gave us a feeling of happiness or inspiration or admiration; the juxtaposition of registars of language and subjects we all found were skillfully made and reflected the haphazardness of busy urban life. We discussed an overall sense of lightheartedness and humour which reviewers had praised in the work but we also detected more somber undertones. Some of the poems did nothing for us, but we felt this would change every time we picked up the book. In this way we felt the work came across exactly as Ashbery intended with no clear meaning being able to be drawn from any poem, just a pile of language beachcombed from everyday life and carefully re-constructed. The poems generally didnt ‘stay with us’ but we would definately go back to them. There was a self-confessed Ashbery lover in the group and myself, who has never read an Ashbery collection before, would seek out his other works.
Grieg on the other hand divided the camp. A couple of us enjoyed the lyrical narrative, the nautical language and found the analogy of the sea-journey as life’s journey worked well. We enjoyed specific poems such as ‘A Small Emergency’ – perhaps most emblematic of the book’s subject. And we especially enjoyed the sequence on Ida and Meg, two former inhabitants of the island of Cava that Grieg camped on. We found the book was more than the sum of its parts; a cohesive collection. But we also found it’s simplicity meant most of us would not re-read it, and one of us – a fan of Andrew Grieg’s other poetry, found there was too much of the poet himself intruding on the poems, spoiling them. We were all surprised, and perhaps disappointed, to find out the actual journey taken by Grieg was in reality only two days with an overnight on Cava, although we admired the skill which translated this into a book length collection and play.