New Criticals

As Shoptaw notes, Ashbery’s relationship to Bashō transcends formal affinity: Bashō stresses in his haibun that his relationships with men are non-commercial, a “universal brotherhood” in Ashbery’s rendering. In a haibun passage entitled “Snowball,” Bashō speaks of a neighbor who comes over to cook with him, and notes, “our relationship doesn’t involve money.” With his five haibun, Ashbery transforms the tradition of homosociality and travel into a new tradition: the haibun as queer narrative. In Ashbery’s “Haibun 4,” homosocial camaraderie is tinged with homosexual promise:

It is a man, it was one all along. No it isn’t. It is a man with the conscience of a woman, always coming out of something, turning to look at you, wondering about a possible reward. How sweet to my sorrows is this man’s knowledge in his way of coming, the brotherhood that will surely result under now darkened skies.