Study Guide

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape Language and Communication

By John Ashbery

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Language and Communication

Welcome to the wild world of contemporary poetry, which is often as much about the ways people use language as about how they act. Ashbery pokes fun at the reader's need to figure out what a poem "means" by making part of "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape" an "undecoded message." The cartoon characters seem almost to talk in riddles, especially Olive and Wimpy. The poem blends many different kinds of speech together, from the childish to the pretentious.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Is there more than one "undecoded message" in the poem?
  2. What kind of people do the characters talk like? To whom would you compare them?
  3. How does the repetition of the same six words help structure the poem?
  4. Is there a consistent story running through the poem, or do events happen for no reason at all? Do you think Ashbery had a story in mind?

Chew on This

The poem should be understood as nonsense and lacks a consistent narrative. This doesn't make it a bad poem.

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