The lake's level, or the balance of branches on a tree – human beings only take advantage of orders already present. It is just that nature gives no clear priority to such orders. It is also flow and fissure. The snake is horrible above all because it has no level, no centre of gravity – it is endlessly obscene motion. The man reaches out preeminently to put an end to that.
(T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death: an Experiment in Art Writing, 2006 (The snake is the snake in Poussin's Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake, 1648.))
The encyclopaedic nature of Ashbery's work – inextricable from the matter of attention – might best be suggested by his use of a small word, namely, all. William Empson wrote of "all" that "you could hardly parody Milton without bringing it in." This is also true of Ashbery, who, perhaps like Empson's Milton, finds "all" useful "because of its very obscurity; it provides confusion only at the deep level where it is required."
(Andrew DuBois, Ashbery's Forms of Attention, 2006)