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1. John Ashbery: Collected Poems,
2. Selected Poems (Poets, Penguin)
3. Planisphere: New Poems
4. Notes from the Air: Selected Later
5. Selected Prose (Poets on Poetry)
6. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror:
7. Jess: To and From the Printed
8. The Landscapist: Selected Poems
9. The Mooring Of Starting Out
10. The Tennis Court Oath: A Book
11. As We Know
12. Illuminations
13. Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles,
14. John Ashbery: Comprehensive Research
15. John Ashbery and American Poetry
16. A Worldly Country: New Poems
17. Other Traditions (Charles Eliot
18. A Wave: Poems
19. A Nest of Ninnies
20. The Tribe of John: Ashbery and

1. John Ashbery: Collected Poems, 1956-1987 (Library of America, No. 187)
by John Ashbery
Hardcover: 1050 Pages (2008-10-02)
list price: US$40.00 -- used & new: US$24.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1598530283
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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With this volume, The Library of America inaugurates a collected edition of the works of America’s preeminent living poet. Beginning with Some Trees in 1956, John Ashbery has charted a profoundly original and individual course that has opened up pathways for subsequent generations of poets. At once hermetic and exuberantly curious, meditative and unnervingly funny, dreamlike and steeped in everyday realities, and alive to every nuance of American speech, these are poems that constantly discover new worlds within language. This first volume of the collected Ashbery includes the complete texts of his first twelve books, including such groundbreaking collections as Rivers and Mountains, Three Poems, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1975), and Houseboat Days. It also features an unprecedented gathering of more than sixty previously uncollected poems written over a period of four decades, a rare treasure trove for poetry lovers. This volume is a landmark portrait of a modern master. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars John Ashbery in the Library of America
John Ashbery (b. 1927) has achieved a unique status among American poets.Even though much of his work is difficult to read, avant-garde, and post-modernist in character, Ashbery has become revered and beloved by many readers. For all the obscurity of his writing, his poetry is tantalizing and inspiring. It properly draws many people into its orbit. Even those who dislike Ashbery's poetry acknowledge its force and importance.

Ashbery's stature is demonstrated by, among many other ways, this volume of his Collected Poems from 1956 -- 1987 in the Library of America (LOA) series. Ashbery is the first living poet to be honored with a complete volume in the LOA. A second projected LOA volume will cover Ashbery's poetry subsequent to 1987. The Library of America was founded in 1979 to preserve the best of American writing in uniform, accessible editions. It is a series that celebrates America in poetry, history, fiction, philosophy, travel writing, journalism, and more.Ashbery richly deserves his place in it. Ashbery was born in 1927 and was raised in upstate New York.He attended Harvard and Columbia and lived for ten years (1955 -- 1965) in Paris.

This volume consists of over 450 poems. It includes the twelve books Ashbery published between 1956 ("Some Trees") and 1987 ("April Galleons") together with over 60 uncollected poems. Ashbery's first book, "Some Trees" received the Yale Younger Poets Prize.It was romantic in character and made much more use of formal verse forms than did his subsequent work. For example, an excellent early poem in the volume, "The Painter" is written in the highly traditional and formal poetic form called a sestina. (A sestina consists of six six-line stanzas and one three-line stanzawith a strict structure in the words which end the lines in each stanza.)

Beyond the first book, Ashbery's work is varied and difficult. It is rarely metered or rhymed.The poems tend to be meditative, in the form of the writer conversing with himself. The poems are seemingly disjointed, with abrupt changes in persons, tenses, and with sometimes startling, incongrous figures. The language passes back and forth from beautiful and original, to colloquial, with frequent cliched or commonplace figures thrown in for effect. Most of the poems resist paraphrase. The poetry explores serious themes, such as love, sexuality, death, the nature of writing, the beauty and variety of the physical world around us, place, childhood. The poems allude freely to art, music, history and literature. For all their modernity, there is a sense of nostalgia in many poems.Inevitably the reader will encounter frustration with this volume. In part, I think Ashbery's goal is to help the reader see things in a new, direct way without the intermediary of stereotypes. The poems are serious, but Ashbery wants to show that seriousness includes playfulness and sometimes whimsy. The poems need to be read both carefully but lightly, to allow the images and lines flow over the reader. When some of the poems appear opaque or even uninteresting -- as many of them will -- the best thing to do is to avoid straining over them and to pass on. This is a long, chronological volume, and there is something to be said from reading it from cover to cover.But it is best read slowly and in small doses.

The central collection in the book "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is a good place to start as an alternative to reading the book through.This collection won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976, an astonishing achievement. The long title poem consists of Ashbery's reflections on a painting of that name by the Renaissance painter Parmigianino (c. 1524) which in an art museum in Vienna. This celebrated long poem tends, surprisingly, to be more accessible on first blush than does much of Ashbery.The following collection of poems "Houseboat Days" (1977) is almost equally as well-known and is a good way to continue exploring Ashbery's poetry.

The most difficult poems in the book are in an early volume called "The Tennis Court Oath" (1962) which was largely written during Ashbery's stay in Paris.The work is written in a collage style in which sections from different sources are sometimes pasted together in a manner similar to that used by the beat writer William S. Burroughs who also was living in Paris at the time. Subsequent to this collection, Ashbery began the process of modifying the difficulties of his work, a process than has continued through his long career.

My favorite collections in this volume were "Three Poems" (1972) and "The Vermont Notebook" (1975). The former work consists of three lengthy and highly intense prose poems called "The New Spirit", "Theme" and "Recital" to Ashbery's companion, David. The latter book, published in the same year as "Self-Portrait" is a fond look at life in Vermont accompanied by drawings by Joe Brainard. Both these collections will reward reading.

The collections published after "Houseboat Days" tend to be more mixed and laid-back in character than the earlier volumes.A poem called "The Songs we Know Best" in the collection "A Wave" (1984) derives from the poet's repeated hearings of a rock song called "Reunited" which he disliked but couldn't get out of his head. This poem is written in rhyme and meter, unlike most of its companions. Among the many poems in the latter volumes, "Alone in the Lumber Business" , Ashbery's use of Japanese forms in "37 Haikus" and the "Haibuns", and the prose poem "Description of a Masque" seem to warrant mention in this brief overview. The long poem "The Skaters" from the "Rivers and Mountains" collection (1966) is difficult but also is worth singling out for attention.

In an interview he gave to LOA upon publication of the volume, Ashbery mentioned his own little-known favorites from his poems: "He" (from Some Trees); "Idaho" (The Tennis Court Oath); Eclogue(Some Trees); "Rain" (The Tennis Court Oath);"The Chateau Hardware" (The Double Dream of Spring); "Description of a Masque" (A Wave), "Alone in the Lumber Business" (April Galleons) and "The Young Prince and the Young Princess" (uncollected). Ashbery also expresses his fondness for the long poem "Clepsydra" in the "Rivers and Mountains" collection.Readers wishing to browse may wish to look at these selected poems in addition to the poems in "Self-Portrait" and "Houseboat Days".

This is a volume to be read slowly and lightly and over time. A key is to avoid getting angry with oneself or with Ashbery for the many things in this book that will appear almost unintelligible.I am grateful to the Library of America for making this volume available to many readers.I look forward to the second LOA volume of John Ashbery's poetry.

Robin Friedman

5-0 out of 5 stars A good read for the buck
I've got a couple of Ashbery poetry books around and I tried to like him, especially when some organic farmer girl, Bard grd., opened a stand at our market. I've returned to him now some ten years later with this collection - since he is one of those half dozen or so frequently referred to as our greatest poet, I bought it- and it's been a wonderful discovery. My farmer tells me he wasn't so funny in class, but I think that's one of the best part of the poems. I certainly can see a lot of his style, the open form, in the generation of younger poets. At the same time I've been rereading some Pound and can see a lot coming together here.

Ashbery's own selection from this time period (up to '87) is available, paperback, for less. That's nice, the poet's own selection tells you something; but this volume is everything he wrote in till then including uncollected material, a very detailed chronolgy of his life, 23 pages of notes on the poems and it is in the agreeable Library of America format.

America has produced an uncanny amount of great poetry for some reason, and thisfellow will be in the inner circle. $27? Go for it.

....Returning after a few mos more reading, it's become a favorite. If you find the poems that are easy, use a bookmark (never write in a book) then branch out...like Tom Waits tunes...
I read in the NYBR review of this book a few weeks ago that Ashbery has said he would be horrified if he thought that folks were just browsing thru his poetry stoned!

5-0 out of 5 stars Understanding is the Wrong Question
John Ashbery is America's greatest living poet.His rejection for the Nobel Prize (so far) is one of Stockholm's major crimes.

However, if you are to appreciate him, you must forget trying to make conventional "sense" out of his writing.Instead, try to let the loosely connected or disconnected scenes, images, etc. wash over you and form their own connections, to create in your mind a new world of poetic reality. ... Read more

2. Selected Poems (Poets, Penguin)
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 368 Pages (1986-12-02)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$5.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140585532
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Mating Swarm of Twittering Machines
Whenever John Ashbery deals out his royal flush of persnickety syntax, tailspun twaddle, and eel-slippery lyric convolution, the mind is where it ought to be.Whipping up spun dimensions in a burning flux of calculated demonry, gossamer insights snookered away in back-closets of the soul, an encroaching blur of poetic hunger just beyond our knowing.

We can *feel* the poet stenciling out his stanzas, sifting every event for its fine-grained visceral crunch, its lyrical *there-ness*, a mind designed to sound deep water with the halcyon light of Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens, the great unassailable precursors of American verse (so difficult to rediscover and appreciate in the morass of "poetry-slams" and "performance-art" that currently glut our poetry venues).

Imagine the type of mind that could respond to Crane and Stevens without flinching, over forty years and eighteen volumes of verse.Imagine the solitaire.

Ashbery staggered me in my late teens with *Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror*(1975), lighting up my sinuses in a cocaine wash of zippety rhythms and studied inflection, peopling my sleep with deep Figurae and a lush library of maps, persuading the fool's heart in me to break from my covert and run wild with the night mind of the race, the structures and possibilities of my life overloaded by his cognitive dazzle."The geek shall inherit the earth," this poet seemed to be telling me, and I, hamstrung by gynephobia and a crippling social-anxiety, took the old codger at his word.

Ashbery taught me how to keep pace with the world, to saturate the atoms of life with an inward stare, yoking myself nakedly to the ebon flight of his lush written world.With Ashbery's deep intellect and dickety-slippity wit, his pretzelly stanzas and mind-torquing conceptual corkscrewing, I could go on forever relighting my own image, against steady palls of black pain.(But don't all great poets teach us precisely this?)

Witness Ashbery at his most serpentine: "To create a work of art that the critic cannot even talk about ought to be the artist's chief concern."Ouch.Where does that leave the rest of us?Fumbling for categorical handholds on the cliff-face of so-called "language-poetry"?Shrugging off the old man's labyrinthian navel-picking as wastefully avant-garde academic verbiage?Most of these poems seem to erupt in an obfuscatory strain of muddled, stickjaw phonetics, then nip and flounder and twiddle and skip-rope through some half-fledged convolution of thought, reproducing the vagaries and blindsights of poetic composition itself, biting its tail in an Ouroboros vertigo of self-reference and studied awkwardness, an infinite regress short-circuiting each new wired fragment of stunted dramatic logic, of discontinued narrative transit, flip-flopped to articulate its crackerjacked, contradictory character, an uber-villain's squadron of twittering machines set a-flutter to tweak the night with the familiar Stevensian tragedies arising from epistemology.and solipsism.

Yes, we can analyze it now (or else pretend our way to some jerry-rigged solution).All the whistles and clicks of inbound meaning.The poetic tracery of nightvision cunning, unfastening the set of our bones, gorging our deep human need for prosody and inflection, all taken to grief in the massing forms of some depth-stirring new solip:system.(Sometimes a great poem is all it takes.)Ashbery's rippling, obfuscatory surface-tension hides and betokens a mind-pretzelling world of ninny-ish cognitive delight, of a "peculiar slant of memory that intrudes on the dreaming model...filtered and influenced by it, until no part remains that is surely you."

Give this book a chance....Recommended points of entry: "Soonest Mended"(87), "As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat"(163), "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror"(188), "Wet Casements"(225), "Houseboat Days"(231), "Tapestry" (269), "A Wave"(322).

5-0 out of 5 stars Tangential
John Ashbery once again takes me on a fantastic ride with his four dimentional poetry.Highly recommended for the poet with writer's block because Ashbery teaches us that bounderies are only limited in the mind.I call him tangential because his imagry shoots one into as many directions as one has.

5-0 out of 5 stars A footnote to my previous review
I don't like to misquote other writers and artists...so, it was,naturally, Bernardo Bertolucci who said about himself that he has "anostalgia for the present". Ophuls certainly had a nostalgia for thepast. My admiration and appreciation for Ashbery's work grows stronger allof the time!

5-0 out of 5 stars John Ashbery IS a marvellous poet!
It is insulting (and it must be disheartening)for a poet of John Ashbery's stature to be told, again and again, that his poems don't make any sense. Ashbery is artificial superficially. It is his critics who generally seemcold and clever to me. I have laughed and wept over his books!And I amhoping that others my age (I'm 30) will NOT fall into the same trap, whichseems toplague older readers, of being smug and vague about their approvalof his work (i.e. imitating what they think he's like rather than what heis as a poet.) Like Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath, in different ways, Isuppose, we need to establish a new critical basis for discussing his work,which falls outside the conventional opinions and prejudices of the day.This may be only to say, that Ashbery has become a part of the canon ofAmerican poetry (this can hardly be denied)--and that raises him to ahigher plateau than those poets we see simply as contemporaries; it doesn'tmake him boring and stiff. Can we enjoy unconventional ideas about thismost surprising of poets? For example, as much as I admire Self-Portrait ina Convex Mirror as a book and individual poem; I acknowledge it as amasterpiece...I nonetheless don't find it as entertaining and touching,ultimately, as books included in Selected Poems such as Some Trees andHouseboat Days and A Wave. The Tennis Court Oath, which represented abreakthrough both for Ashbery and for poetry, contains some of his mostbeautiful,rapturous work, like "How Long Will I Be Able To Inhabit TheDivine Sepulcher..." I don't think he wrote that freely again, andwith such a musical emotional pull, until the later Flow Chart, which issometimes similar even in extact detail. Bees, for instance: "Willprobably always be haunted by a bee" and "polluted in any case bybees." Love is the main theme, after all, of Ashbery entire oeuvre.Somebody once said to me that his poems are like a whiff of perfume. Andit's true, in the best sense. Because they are lovely and contain that sortof romanticism and eroticism and one remembers them fondly. He may have, asI believe Pauline Kael wrote about the filmmaker Max Ophuls, "anostalgia for the present." Although he sometimes risks becoming anobjectionable purist himself--he can appear too fussy and argumentative forit's own sake, or even rude, at times--he is mostly kind, fair andbalanced, funny though he undeniably is. Who doesn't like a poet like that,or understand him? Even if one has a very different aesthetic, it can be anintoxicating or even comforting voice to listen to. The Selected Poems area good place to start, but then, if you have a chance, read the wholevolumes,and what's come after. You'll have a chance, because they oughtto be around forever. ... Read more

3. Planisphere: New Poems
by John Ashbery
Hardcover: 160 Pages (2009-12-01)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$8.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061915211
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Just as the day could use another hour,
I need another idea. Not a concept
or a slogan. Something more like a rut
made thousands of years ago by one of the first
wheels as it rolled along. It never came back
to see what it had done, and the rut
just stayed there, not thinking of itself
or calling attention to itself in any way.
Sun baked it. Water stood, or rather sat
in it. Wind covered it with dust, then blew it
away. Always it was available to itself
when it wished to be, which wasn't often.

Then there was a cup and ball theory
I told you about. A lot of people had left the coast.
Squirt conditions obtained. I forgot I overwhelmed you
once upon a time, between everybody's sound sleep
and waking afterward, trying to piece together
what had happened. The rut glimmered
through centuries of snow and after.
I suppose it was trying to make some point
but we never found out about that,
having come to know each other years later
when our interest in zoning had revived again.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Impressed & puzzled
I was quite impressed by Ashbery's wit and use of language.I was puzzled by what a good bit of it meant, but maybe it should just be and not mean?A very strange book.And, by the way, what does that number 3160 on the cover indicate, if anything?

1-0 out of 5 stars Planisphere
John Ashbery is a famous man.He has won nearly every major American award for poetry and his accolades and praises could fill a great deal of this paper.Despite being one of the most lauded and prominent American, as well as English language, poets since the seventies, Mr. Ashbery remains a controversial figure.The disagreement over the man's work is not for the content of his poems, but rather for the fact that critics are divided on whether he is writing poetry or merely stringing along words randomly accompanied by unorthodox styling.I am firmly in the latter camp.//Planisphere// is Ashbery's latest collection of poems and like his previous works, defies description.It stretches this writer's imagination to define Mr. Ashbery's work as art.I know others might defend him by stating that this is the intent of the work.But, if Ashbery's intent is to confound, confuse, and eventually exasperate the reader he is not writing poetry but rather riddles without answers.The fact that readers must be "initiated" in some sense of the word into the world of modern poetry either through graduate level classes or seminars defeats the entire purpose of writing poetry or even creating art.One hopes that eventually poetry can overcome this and return to the "expression according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."

Reviewed by Jonathon Howard

4-0 out of 5 stars An Old Favorite
People seem to either like Ashbery or they don't like him. I like him. Once again Ashbery has chosen a title that beautifully captures the whole formal enterprise of the collection. A planisphere is a map of half or more of the celestial sphere with a device for indicating the part of a given location visible at a given time, or a representation of the whole or a part of a sphere on a plane. Face it, poems are like that. There is no such thing as a poem alone. All poems are connected to other poems in an unending chain, like stars in the sky. Ashbery's poetry reveals this clearly. His poems are sovereign objects, beautiful discrete things in themselves. And yet, because of the way they are constructed, they call out to the wider world of discourse. The poems do not speak for the world of discourse, any more than the world (a part of it,this review, for example) speaks for the poems; a poem is not a bridge between two worlds. A poem evokes a parallel being, which we may call a reading, and this reading asserts its own sovereignty, leaving the way for a third text, then a fourth and fifth and so on. This is also true of writers as well as readers of poetry. One star is inconceivable, as is one poem, even though we wish upon a star, and we have our favorite poems.

Everyone knows that any poet has a limited repertoire. Having a favorite is like preferring one version of a familiar tune over another: 'Oh, that is one of Dickinson's finest performances!' I gave "Planisphere" four rather than five stars only because I like some of his other books such as "Hotel Lautreamont", "The Double Dream of Spring" and "Three Poems" better. ... Read more

4. Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 384 Pages (2008-11-01)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$5.67
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061367184
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This long-awaited volume, a new selection of his later poems, spans ten major collections by one of America's most visionary and influential poets. Chosen by the author himself, the poems in Notes from the Air represent John Ashbery's best work from the past two decades, from the critically acclaimed April Galleons and Flow Chart to the 2005 National Book Award finalist Where Shall I Wander.

While Ashbery has long been considered a powerful force in twentieth-century culture, Notes from the Air demonstrates clearly how important and relevant his writing continues to be, well into the twenty-first century. Many of the selections found here are regularly taught in university classrooms across the country, and critics and scholars vigorously debate his newest works as well as his classics. He has already published four major books since the turn of the new millennium, and, although 2007 marked his eightieth birthday, this legendary literary figure continues to write fresh, new, and vibrant poetry that remains as stimulating, provocative, and controversial as ever.

Notes from the Air reveals, for the first time in one volume, the remarkable evolution of Ashbery's poetry from the mid-1980s into the new century, and offers an irresistible sampling of some of the finest work by a poet the New York Times has called a "national treasure."

... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Reading of "How To Continue"
Watch Video Here: http://www.amazon.com/review/RX56ZBQZT4DSN This book was my first encounter with the Ashberry corpus aside from a few discrete poems.I can quite see now why he is such a polarising figure.Most of his poems are opaque, replete with French words and certainly chock-full of cribbings from other poems of which even the well-read reader may not be aware.

I chose this poem because - although it contains no French - it seems to me to best exemplify the ironic French style where everything is put to the reader, as Ashberry would say, mine de rien, or casually, but in which the import of the poem is anything but superficial.

3-0 out of 5 stars No Connection, Call Later
Sorry. Ashbery is enormously respected. He has been showered with awards and grants. He can boast the ultimate badge of accessibility, appearances on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. He has even been cited, along with Wallace Stevens, by all of my most respected poet friends as a touchstone of 20th century poetics. I decided that if, I just stuck to it long enough, I would get it--I would have to get it. But 100 pages into the book, I had to run up the white flag. He's obviously extremely intelligent which, I guess, makes me a complete dolt. The titles don't make sense to me. The interior narrative of each poem doesn't make sense to me. And there seems to me to be very little modulation in the tone and intent of the poems, the sort of thing that makes you wade through an author's philosophical poems or the more formally knotty poems with the assurance that they are also master of more direct, more communicative forms. I always had the feeling that Ashbery was talking to someone behind me, that he never made eye contact. The problem was that, besides him, I was the only other person in the room. I'll have to try again later. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book
I ordered this for a class and it was delivered very quickly. It was also in excellent condition.

5-0 out of 5 stars For Old and New Ashbery Readers
This selection contains April Galleons, Flow Chart, Hotel Lautremont, And the Stars Are Shining, Can You Hear, Bird, Wakefulness, Girls on the Run, Your Name Here, Chinese Whispers, and Where Shall I Wander. If you are a casual reader of Ashbery, this is perfect for you because it keeps you from rummaging through several collections to find a handful of great poems. For instance, Flow Chart is a fantastic long poem, but for this Selected, it is stripped down to only section Five (out of six). I can't complain too much about what was left out either. There are a few poems here and there but overall these are truly the strongest of his latter oeuvre. If you are a serious reader of Ashbery, then don't expect too much. There isn't an introduction, which i thought was a bummer, and the great poem "Heavenly Days" from Chinese Whispers isn't in here. Also I found the deckle-edge to be a hindrance to easily thumbing through the pages. It's a little too precious. What may be the most interesting part of the book for JA fans is to compare your selection with his selections. I find this as an interesting gauge to what the author aesthetically prefers, at least at the time of the selection. ... Read more

5. Selected Prose (Poets on Poetry)
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 336 Pages (2005-11-30)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$17.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0472031392
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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"By the end of the book, Ashbery has laid out not only a course in contemporary poetics but a portrait of the artist teaching himself to become a thoroughly Modernist poet---in small bites, easy to savor, easy to digest."
---Los Angeles Times Book Review

"This is a marvelous book by one of our greatest poets. Reading John Ashbery's Selected Prose is like listening to a brilliant talker who not only keeps us entertained and laughing, but whoalso has wise things to say about all sorts of interesting subjects."
---Charles Simic

"At last!Many of the fugitive pieces collected in this volume---on Gertude Stein, on Frank O'Hara, on Marianne Moore or Adrienne Rich---published as many of them were in out-of-the way places, have already become collectors' items, providing fascinating---and often startling--- assessments of their subjects as well as new insight into Ashbery himself.Now here they are between two covers, along with many hitherto unknown pieces on subjects ranging from Michel Butor to Mary Butts, Jane Freilicher to Mark Ford.For anyone who cares about the contemporary poetry/art scene, this is an indispensable collection."
---Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University

Selected Prose contains a broad selection of texts by internationally acclaimed poet and critic John Ashbery. This third collection of Ashbery's critical writings dramatically expands the terrain covered by the first two, Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987 and Other Traditions (first presented as the Norton Lectures at Harvard). These essays on writers, artists, filmmakers and the life of a poet provide insight into Ashbery's evolution as one of the major poets in English. Ashbery's criticism is as essential to the cultural history of the twentieth century as was that of T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden. His unique sensibility has had a profound impact on the literature and arts of our time, and his influence is certain to be felt for decades to come. Editor Eugene Richie's introduction provides a meaningful context for fifty years' worth of critical and creative prose by one of America's finest poets.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars I do not hate the celery stick
Mr. Ashbery's prose is both crisp and pliable, like a spaghetti noodle half-submerged in boiling water, sticking above the rim of the pot like a flag-pole in an imaginary country whose flag has not yet been sewn together, or is off being mended.

Like Reported Sightings this book can lead the curious reader down many meandering paths of discovery that go off far beyond the book itself until it is little more than a bright little beacon in the distance assuring you that everything is still OK.

Footnote: Much of this review was inspired by a review that has now been removed. Apparently the author of said review mistook my comic riffs for downright mockery.
... Read more

6. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror: Poems (Poets, Penguin)
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 96 Pages (1990-01-01)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$5.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140586687
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (8)

3-0 out of 5 stars Self-portrait of a self-aggrandizing man
This collection of poetry is really just a pseudo-intellectual attempt to capitalize on the confusion and the disorientation of the post-modern era. The poetry makes little sense, and its meaning can't be pasted together even if one looks at it as it is apparently meant to be looked at - the poet's response to abstract art. The words on the page don't even make enough sense to be accepted into the genre of surrealism.

To be fair to the book, many of the fragmented pieces of poetry that the "poet" pieces together do have a rich, beautiful flavor to them. Some scattered pieces have even stuck in my brain for years as the inexplicable beauty of them did present themselvesas poetical, deep, almost musical even in the absence of rhythm or rhyme. But then again, so does Dr. Seuss. And you don't see Dr. Seuss fashioning himself in such a condescending light as Ashberry and his cronies. And this book doesn't even rhyme.

I would have given this book 3 estrellas instead of 2 if it weren't for the last factor that bothered me about this work - the price. It says here that I paid $16.00 for this thing 4 years ago and the price hasn't gone down much since. At less than a hundred pages this thing is a total rip-off. It could at least be hardcover for that price. But I guess mediocre poets have got to make their living somehow. For shame, John Ashberry, for shame.

Edit: The price has gone down since I reviewed this. It is my pleasure to grant Ashberry a third star, as promised.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ashbery's Self-Portrait
The American poet John Ashbery's (b. 1927) book "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" received extraordinary accolades upon its publication in 1975.The book won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Critics Circle Award. The book, especially the lengthy concluding poem for which it is named, solidified Ashbery's reputation as a major American poet and remains his most widely-read work. The book consists of 35 poems, including the title poem.I am in the midst of reading the Library of America's collection of Ashbery's poems from 1956-1987 and wanted to pause to try to take stock through this important collection.

Ashbery's poetry and this volume resist paraphrase.Each poem includes lines and figures which are indivually striking and often beautiful; but the poems cannot be read discursively.The diction shifts markedly in the poems from the solemn to the profane. There are sudden shifts in person and in tenses. Frequently, lines or sections are clear enough, but a poem as a whole will appear opaque.There is a sense in Ashbery's work of cutting through the tendency to rationalize and to focus on the joy of experience in its diversity.The concreteness and detail of the poem show a love of things in their variety and keen emotional responses. The poems frequently have the sense of an interior monologue or a discussion among friends. For all their difficulty, the poems have a certain lightness of touch. The poetry is urbane and shows great knowledge of art, music, literature, movies, and popular culture. And with reading, some sense of what Ashbery is about becommes clear.

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" was a watershed book for Ashbery because it is somewhat more accessible than his earlier avant-garde books. Yet the difficulties remain.The title poem, Ashbery's masterpiece, is, on one level accessible to read.It moves in a narrative reflection, and can be followed, up to a point.This is still a difficult poem which will bear close and repeated readings.

The title poem is based on a painting of 1524 of the same name by Parmigianino that now is in the Kunsthistoriche Museum, Vienna. The painting shows a reflection of the artist on a convex mirror.It is marked by a seemingly distorted and large right hand, and the somewhat feminine yet intense face of the artist staring at the viewer. In his poem, Ashbery addresses the artist, discusses and questions him about his painting, and quotes commenters on the painting contemporary and modern. He describes the work and his reaction to it, e.g.

"That is the tune but there are no words
The words are only speculation
(From the Latin speculum, mirror):
They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music."

The suggestion is that words are inadequate to capture reality, which must be conceived imaginatively. As the poem progresses, it discusses tradition and interpretation and perspectivism in understanding reality.The artist's vision is brought forward as Ashbery meditates on modern life and its cacophony. The poembecomes its own reflection of Ashbery's understanding of the creative endeavor.

The short poems in this volume are overshadowed by the Self-Portrait. These poems tend to be even more elliptical than this major poem of the volume. In my reading, I tried to identify the works that I could respond to while passing over, for the present, others that seemed to me obscure. This might be a good way for other readers to approach the book.

The poems I enjoyed include the first poem, "As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat, the title of which is based on a poem called "Tom May's Death" by Andrew Marvell. (1621 --1678).Ashbery begins with the words "I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free" which in the context of the poem seems to speak of the renewal of the creative endeavor. The "Poem in Three Parts" begins with a startling phrase ("Once I let a guy blow me") but proceeds to an exploration of how one responds to experience: "Who goes to bed with what/ is unimportant. Feelings are important./ Mostly I think of feelings, they fill up my life/ Like the wind, like tumbling clouds/ In a sky full of clouds, clouds upon clouds.""

There is a charm and a picture of adolescent sexuality in "Mixed Feelings". The poem "The One Thing that can Save America" with its sense of nostalgia as Ashbery describes the "timeless" truths of warding off danger "Now and in the future, in cool yards,/In quiet small houses in the country,/Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets."The poems "Tenth Symphony", "Fear of Death" and "City Afternoon" are among others that I enjoyed.

This book is difficult, modern poetry that may not appeal to all readers. The poems in this book are evocative and I think a sense of them can be got from sympathetic reading. This book deserves its reputation as a major work of American literature.

Robin Friedman

1-0 out of 5 stars Through a Glass Murky
A confounding, self-indulgent collection by America's master of Poetica Obscura.

As a teacher of literature and a poetry lover since childhood, I've read thousands upon thousands of poems from a number of poets of a number of languages, and I'll be blasted if this is not the first time I got absolutely NOTHING out of reading a book of poems.In fact the only line from this one that I recall is "I let a guy blow me once."

It is this personalization of verse (to the extreme, where "feeling" becomes more important than meaning) that has destroyed poetry as a popular art form in this country.(One can scarcely imagine asking someone to memorize and recite anything from this book.)

Give me Richard Wilbur or even Sarah Teasdale any time.Shoot, I'll even take Rod McKuen at this point.

A Pulitzer for this?Say it ain't so, Joe!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Classic Worth Your Time
John Ashbery is probably the most famous and most productive of the Post-Modernists & the New York School of poets. His career has been long and productive. He remains to this day very visible, frequently publishing his poems in the New Yorker. It was, in fact, within the pages of the New Yorker that I first encountered Ashbery in my youth. I hated his work immediately. In fact, it took years for me to discover the incredible beauty and intellectual stimulation within Ashbery's poetry. Over the years I have come to appreciate Ashbery's more recent, or later work most of all. Although I appreciate the greater simplicity of his earlier work, and the great, convoluted anguish of his middle work, it is the vision of his later work that engages me most.

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror belongs primarily to his middle period. It, of course, famously won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. I own this edition of the work and it has held up well with multiple readings, both the actual paperback, and the text. When I initially read this volume I found it strangely troubling and thought-provoking. I felt almost physically anguished as I read it over and over again. When I first encountered it I surrendered nearly a complete month to repeatedly devouring Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. However, in the end I found that it is still not my favorite of his works. Also, I must confess that I found the short poems in the volume much more engaging than the long, title poem.

As a poet, myself, for years I have found endless inspiration within Ashbery's writing (as well as the writing of many others, including the particularly noteworthy Charles Simic). I think for those first approaching Ashbery's work, this is probably the best place to start. I believe you will find that you either love or hate his work. If you discover that you love it, move on to other works such as The Mooring of Starting Out - a 1 volume edition of his first 4 volumes of poetry, or Where Shall I Wander - one of his latest works...or, there are so many others to choose from, all good, solid works of poetry. If you've already read other works by Ashbery, but have not read this work, you need to get yourself a copy and get to it. I am convinced that it would be a mistake to overlook this very important and engaging work.

4-0 out of 5 stars Sashimi of Post-Modernity
This collection of poems, especially the title poem, is jarring and bewildering in its swiftness and complexity, and in the crossed-paths of struggle, you will encounter spectacular images and conclusions. The imageslike "now from the unbuttoned corner moving out" and"recurring wave of arrival" are vividly childlike and nostalgicbut also remind me of nothing I have encountered before. Ashberry's imagessometimes bang against each other like the organized chaos of bumper cars.If you find yourself lost, keep reading and re-reading, no one needs topoint out subtlety. Stick around, the confusion and overlapping delay therelease at the end of his movements, which rival T.S. Eliot, in theirpolite, mythic send-offs. ... Read more

7. Jess: To and From the Printed Page
by Ingrid Schaffner, Jess
Paperback: 112 Pages (2007-06-01)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$19.94
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Asin: 0916365751
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Jess: To and From the Printed Page focuses on the artist simply known as "Jess" (1923-2004), and celebrates his lively and lifelong dialogue with poets, poetry and printed matter. Published to accompany the iCI touring exhibition, it features collages made for publication, the books and magazines in which they were reproduced, as well as many previously unreproduced paintings, drawings and assemblages. The book offers a fresh perspective on Jess's work by specifically addressing the interrelation between his art and the California literary culture of which he was a part. It also explores the intimacy of the collaborations and conversations in which he participated over five decades, and points to his effect on younger artists today--through his use of "pop" materials in collage and paint, his early homoerotic themes and his enjoyment of the book format as a compositional vehicle. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Keep Your Eyes Open...
...next time you stroll through a museum. You might make a discovery. I did, this morning. The De Young Museum of San Francisco has three paintings by "Jess", two of which I think are staggeringly good, figurative paintings built with almost bas-relief impasto. I bought this book at the museum store, and I've just begun to live with it.

Much to my surprise, I knew this guy Jess years ago in San Francisco. He was the marriage-partner of the poet Robert Duncan. I didn't enjoy Duncan's poetry, and I suppose I let it show. In any case, we were civil but no more, and I completely ignored the partner's art openings.

My loss.

Jess was born in 1923. His birth name was Burgess Collins. He was a brilliant chemist and worked on the Manhatten Project in the production of plutonium. After 1945, he continued in plutonium science with the Hanford Atomic Energy Project. In 1949, he had an epiphany; he found himself conscience-stricken over the destructive powers of nuclear weapons. He abandoned science entirely and turned to art.

Our gain.

5-0 out of 5 stars A master of collage
I came across one small work by Jess while visiting a small museum recently, and was utterly taken by its mysterious quality, both erotic & ominous, achieved through collage of kitschy figures with more subtle, understated images. I'd never seen anything quite like it & immediately wanted to know more about the man & his work. This volume is the perfect introduction to both.

The longtime companion of poet Robert Duncan, Jess dropped his last name when he cut ties with his disapproving family. Openly gay long before it was common or safe, his art reflects his life -- although sexuality is just one of his subjects. He was clearly a student of surrealism, incorporating it into his art, sometimes for individual pieces, sometimes to illustrate small magazines.

And his interests are definitely wide-ranging! For example, he recreates text in several Dick Tracy comic strips, creating the satiric & thought-provoking new comic strip, "Tricky Cad." Many of his magazine covers & illustrations have an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere drawing upon alchemical & occult sources. All of his work is infused with intelligence & vision.

Some may believe that anyone can create collage, that it requires no real talent. Well, anyone can create bad or inept collage, and all too many do -- formulaic Victorian fluff & dunce caps, alas! But this is collage at its finest, truly raising the bar, demonstrating that it's art. Highly recommended!
... Read more

8. The Landscapist: Selected Poems
by Pierre Martory
Paperback: 280 Pages (2008-06-30)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$14.30
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Asin: 1931357528
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Bilingual Edition
Translated from the French and with an introduction by John Ashbery

"After I began translating Pierre Martory, that is, after I began to realize that his marvelous poetry would likely remain unknown unless I translated it and brought it to the attention of American readers, I have begun to find echoes of his work in mine.His dreams, his pessimistic resumes of childhood that are suddenly lanced by a joke, his surreal loves, his strangely lit landscapes with their inquisitive birds and disquieting flora, have been fertile influences for me, though I hope I haven't stolen anything--well, better to steal than borrow, as Eliot more or less said.All of which may be a way of saying that there is no very easy way to describe Martory's poetry.It is sui generis and it deserves to be read. And reread." --John Ashbery ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars A scape of lands and un-lands which hold us!!
I travel these pages as I have with Borges, Neruda, Ashbery, Stevens - what a find to find Martory! ... Read more

9. The Mooring Of Starting Out
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 400 Pages (1998-11-01)
list price: US$19.99 -- used & new: US$9.98
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Asin: 0880015470
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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five books from SOME TREES (1956) to THREE POEMS Amazon.com Review
Most critics would agree that John Ashbery is one of20th-century American poetry's finest voices. Perhaps his most admiredbook is Self-Portrait ina Convex Mirror, a culmination of themes, styles, and formswith which the poet experimented over the course of two decades. Now,the poet's devoted readers can trace his development through the firstfive books of his poetry, collected here in one handy volume. TheMooring of Starting Out represents Ashbery's work from 1956through 1972, comprising Some Trees, his first book; The Tennis Court Oath,written while he was living in Paris; Rivers and Mountains;The Double Dream of Spring; and Three Poems. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Ashbery's Pompatus of Love
Reviewing John Ashbery is a somewhat daunting prospect - but, then again, at one time I found just reading his poetry an equally intimidating proposal. Since you might be facing the latter situation, let me describe why I think this book, "The Mooring of Starting Out", is a particularly worthwhile place to enjoy Mr. Ashbery's work. Along the way I'll mention a useful book of essays about his poetry and try to briefly address the question of `meaning' in his poems.

You're probably here because you've read some of Ashbery's poetry - if so, you can't help but have noticed that his approach to language is very different from many poets. (If you have never read any of his work I suggest you go to the poets.org website to take a look at the samples posted.) If you remain undaunted, and are now considering buying this compilation of the contents of his first five books of poetry, good! Here's why.

Ashbery's first five books bounced around in style and approach much more so than his recent work. This is not to imply that he has settled into one or another form - he remains one of the most inventive poets around; just be encouraged to experience the wild ride that his early creative career seems to have comprised. You will get a multifaceted view of his paths to the powerful creativity of his more recent work: the magnificent epic of "Flow Chart" and the sweep of "Self-Portrait in Convex Mirror."

Each of the five offers its own unique appeal. The poems from "Some Trees" show a range of experimentation unusual in a first book - a lot of people back in 1956 must have been wondering where Ashbery was headed. Then "The Tennis Court Oath" appeared and, I'm told, outraged the poetry establishment; its jarring `meaning-less-ness' apparently leaving some feeling they were being hoodwinked. In 1967 "Rivers and Mountains" demonstrated Ashbery's facility for the long poem with "The Skaters", and between that book and the following "Double Dream of Spring" can be found many of the works considered exemplary of his first 16 years. Finally, in 1972, came book number five, my favorite, "Three Poems." Diving deep into a Proustian, paragraphless prose form, these three reflections on the nature of things seem as heartbreakingly timely now as they must have been then.

The really nice thing about "Mooring..." is that you have all five books in hand at once.Notwithstanding their arrangement in chronological order, you can skip around. I'd encourage you to do so. Otherwise you risk a `big gulp' effect - a disorder of digestion that will come from trying to `get through' sixteen years of his writing in a few days. After all, readers of"Some Trees" back in 1956 had six years to await the `outrages' of "Tennis Court"; six years to read and reread. Why should you clearcut the sixty-odd pages of "Trees" in an evening or two? Besides, the book comes with a stylish yellow bookmark-ribbon (at least the hardcover does), that you can use to keep track of a less-than-linear stroll through the poems in the book.

I must admit that I found myself frequently flummoxed by John Ashbery's poetry over the past few years since I first discovered his "Flow Chart." I was, nevertheless, drawn like a moth to SOMETHING in there. Now you may be a more clever reader than I, but it took a few prostheses for me to figure out what was going on - to start to get an idea why I was drawn to the poetry and what I was getting out of it.

If that sort of push-pull relationship has brought you this far to take a peek at his early work, let me loan you my crutch. I discovered a copy of "Beyond Amazement", a book of essays about Ashbery's poetry, published in 1980 and edited by David Lehman.I found this book invaluable. Sort of like those hook-ish things rock climbers use. You might still find yourself swinging out in space, but one or another of the essays in "Amazement" will have offered a view of the nature of Ashbery's poetic quest that can serve as an anchor of sorts.

You may, like me, skip the few essays in "Amazement" which overdo the lit-crit crowing, but mostly they are helpful: quite frank in acknowledging the `problem' of meaning in Ashbery's poetry and quite insightful in providing conceptual anchors for his readers. And since these essays were published before Ashbery's big `hits' they tilt more toward the works collected in "Mooring."

With the help of "Beyond Amazement", I have come to a wider appreciation of the forms of meaning in Ashbery's poetry and to a more satisfying reading of "The Mooring of Starting Out." Explicit meaning can be seen as only a piece of what most of us seek in poetry or any art. Given the wordless form of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, would we deny its powerful effect on a listener as holding no `meaning.' For that matter, just think about all those pieces of popular music over the years which you hummed over and over but whose lyrics you never even understood - what was the "pompatus of love" that Steve Miller sang of? We seem to feel meaning tugging at us from unverbal or simply incomprehensible realms, whether in poetry or any other work of art.

John Ashbery has spent almost fifty years mulling the ability of words, word-sounds, and even word-absences to line up on a page and nevertheless chart the less-than-linear bridge to meaning. "The Mooring of Starting Out" offers a fine glimpse into his early efforts.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Distractions of Really
I'm just beginning my wrestle with this beautiful, maddening book and can already see it's going to be a long and fruitful one.Little here sounds early--the unsettling dreaminess, walking a thin line between philosophy and nonsense, is there from the first and only deepens.The voice is one you're bound to recognize, a blend of uncertainty and love for the surface beauty of things;a world constantly appearing, but never there long enough to leave more than a skater's trace.And tres American.It's hard to imagine (here in the first flush) how any other way of writing could speak so prettily and still keep a straight face in this doubting age of ours that offers so much to see and love.

5-0 out of 5 stars A collection of his experimental early years.
A poet in the line of Whitman, Stevens, and Crane, Ashbery began his career as an art critic -- his early work reflects this aesthetic. A beautiful book, The Mooring of Starting Out includes the book Rivers andMountains, often considered Ashbery's greatest foray into the imaginativeverse of Poundian writers. It includes his first long poem, The Skaters,which is wonderful. This book is a treat if you like to think. ... Read more

10. The Tennis Court Oath: A Book of Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Program)
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 94 Pages (1977-12-15)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.38
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Asin: 0819510130
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Still a touchstone of contemporary avant-garde poetry today, this 35th anniversary edition of John Ashbery's second book celebrates an American poet who has won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. ... Read more

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3-0 out of 5 stars When it's good, it's very very good. But when it's bad...
John Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath (Wesleyan, 1962)

Reading Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath probably doesn't rank high on the list of many people's favorite things to do. But reading it while you've immersed yourself in a glut of Charles Simic is an especially bad idea. Simic is the quintessential surrealist writing in English today; Ashbery is sort of a weird, fuzzy cross between surrealism, dada, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E whose work is, by turns, incomprehensibly unreadable and quite good.

I opened the book to a random page and start quoting from the top left...

"You often asked me after hours
The glass pinnacle, its upkeep and collapse
Knowing that if we were in a barn
Straw panels would... Confound it
Te arboretum is bursting with jasmine and lilac
And all I can smell here is newsprint..."
("The New Realism")

Anyone who wants to take a stab at explaining that, by all means, go ahead. I cannot help but compare this stuff (as I did in a recent Jackson Mac Low review) to the work of John M. Bennett, which is completely nonsensical but SOUNDS like it shouldn't be. Reading John M. Bennett is like understanding how to read and pronounce a completely foreign language without understanding a single word; even when you have no idea what's going on, if you read it out loud, you can still do so smoothly and put inflections in all the right places to make it sound great. With this, the reader is reduced to stumbling through, trying to grasp some semblance of meaning in order to make it scan. (And we wonder why people ask "what does it mean?" when confronted with poetry. lord save us.)

But when Ashbery is on, he is quite on, and his work takes on a spectre of imagism; not enough to make the book worth buying, mind you, but enough to make it worth borrowing from the library. The more lucid sections of "Europe," for example, where Ashbery dispenses with the easy, wannabe dadaism and gets down to his subject (Beryl Markham), give the reader an idea of why Ashbery, not too long before this, was selected by the Yale Series of Younger Poets. But, as with many poetry collections, you wade through some swine to get to the pearls. In this case, they're often in the same poems. ** ½

5-0 out of 5 stars The Unbroken Oath:Ashbery's Neglected Masterpiece
Wesleyan University Press has reissued a volume in its series of "classics" which deserves a place on the shelves of everyone interested in poetry in the last forty-five years.THE TENNIS COURT OATH is a series of experiments in poetry which are as daring and fresh today asthey were in 1962, when the book (Ashbery's second) first appeared.Thoughthe book contains some often anthologized pieces--"Faust" and"They Dream Only of America" for instance--the book reprints theless familiar "America," "Rain," and the 110 part poem"Europe." It is these more obscure poems that seem to offer thebest glimpse of the possibilities of Ashbery as a poet as well as thepossibilities for language and poetry in general.Reading these poems inthe light of Ashbery's interceding success as a poet, the book emerges as akind of rough blueprint for his career.No one who knows Ashbery's poem"Litany" (in AS WE KNOW, Viking, 1979) can look at the paralleltext of "To the Same Degree" in OATH and not see it as thefledgling form of the later work.Even "Europe," which theauthor himself admits was a kind of failure, demonstrates the daring searchfor a method of communication which Ashbery described (in 1962)as"perhaps a new kind of poetry which tries to use words in a newway....to use words abstractly as an abtract painter would usepaint....This has nothing to do with 'Imagism' or using words because oftheir sound--words are inseparable from their meaning and cannot be said toexist apart from it.My aim is to give the meaning free play and thefullest possible range [in an] attempt to get a greater, more complete kindof realism.""Europe," if it is a failure, is a brilliantone, saturated with the possibilities of language which dares to venture,as T. S. Eliot put it, at "the frontiers of consciousness, wheremeaning fails but feelings still persist."It is that sense ofexperimentation, of the avante-garde and the seemingly limitlesspossibilities for the language of poetry that the complete text of OATH,now reprinted, captures and presents to the reader.Those already familiarwith Ashbery's work will find the book an indispensible high-point in hiscanon, those unfamiliar with Ashbery will see a different kind of poetry,rife with new ideas and new hopes for relating language to the world itseeks to describe and of which it is part. John Ashbery's TENNIS COURTOATH, like his SELECTED POEMS (Viking, 1985) is simply a must for anyserious reader of late Twentieth-century and contemporary poetry. ... Read more

11. As We Know
by John Ashbery
 Paperback: 118 Pages (1979-11-29)
list price: US$7.95 -- used & new: US$81.25
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Asin: 0140422749
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12. Illuminations
by Arthur Rimbaud
 Hardcover: 144 Pages (2011-04-25)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$24.95
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Asin: 0393076350
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13. Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles, 1957-1987
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 464 Pages (1991-03-01)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$64.94
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Asin: 0674762258
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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America's great poet and art critic, John Ashbery, presents some of his most provocative essays on art. Ashbery has long been one of America's most important art critics--first for the Paris Herald Tribune and later for New York and Newsweek. ... Read more

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4-0 out of 5 stars Ashbery Unplugged
The range of styles surveilled in this anthology, chanted aloud, taps on the eardrum like some snooty, kibitzing skip-rope rhyme: from Flemish primitivism to Blakean theosophy to Japanese photography to Bulgarian art to Barbizon landscapes to Italian baroque to Francis Bacon�s death-empty Existenz....(And skip, and weave, and jump, and sashay.)Ashbery�s weekly obligation to grind out art-gallery reportage takes the edge off his game (there is little zing and panache in these articles, surely not the Ashbery of �Convex Mirror� or �Wet Casements� or �Tapestry�), but we can sense the poet assembling secret stanzas beneath the prim, deadpan facade, the lyrical footnoting of each gallery-critique with a submerged kabbalah of vision-forming events.Many of the articles seem like secret rehearsals for the sinuous liquid-measures that would shoal in on the melt-waters of Ashbery�s passing-strange future verse odysseys.Being forced to *respond* to such a barrage of multicultural artworks, consistently and intelligently, may have been the excitant to desert-thirst Ashbery needed, an entry-burn to some exotic, chimerical, Parisian boot-camp of the Critical Eye set to hone his assimilative powers.

Here, his tone is light and disaffected, rinsed clean of resentment, of snooty ire (of polemic, in short).He smiles without mirth.He muses quietly on the splotched canvases and hieroglyphic streaks of pigment smeared straight from the tube.The painting glasses his eye, drizzling a cool rain on the transformative poetic pyre, surrendering the *gravitas* of the nipping stanza for the quiet, unassuming air of journalism and reportage.Admirers of *Flow Chart* or *Houseboat Days* or *Can You Hear, Bird?* must tune to a different wavelength, endure Ashbery�s incognito for 400 pages of canny, priggish prose.

To his credit, however, Ashbery manages to clarify our confusion without diminishing it, allowing the painting or sculpture or collage to work its idiopathic design into the crawling hues of our ocular node, to extend its mesh of associations into us, to interleave its voice with the recessed intaglio of our deep painterly source-code, because the pattern gleams there, too.

Granted, all great love wants to *create* the beloved, and I may be over-subjectifying my experience of these essays.(Ashbery is, after all, no Arthur C. Danto, much less a Ruskin or a Pater.)Poems like �Tapestry� taught me how and whom to love, and left me burdened with a programme for self-enhancement that would keep me howling to an inward moon for as long as I can read and write (silly pretentious tart that I am).If no such creature is ever sighted, we are resolved to create one in its stead.Likewise, whenever Ashbery�s journalism disappoints us by not *attacking* these gallery-exhibitions with the same gold-standard inbreaking rush of poetic zeal we�ve come to expect, there is always the temptation to project our own cocksure aesthetic fantasies onto the stark-white glossy canvas of the not-quite-there.

�The conception is interesting: to see, as though reflected / In streaming windowpanes, the look of others through / Their own eyes....� --�Wet Casements�

Few people really care whether the canvases of George Mathieux really surge with polychromatic rhythms equal to the fin-de-siecle squiggling of France�s post-Dada cabal, whether William Blake�s illuminated epics prognosticate the kino-eye intensity of modern cinema, whether H.R. Giger�s machine-world mechanosphere can help us de-romanticize the industrial megalomania that has dessicated the Earth, and our refusal to know is already part of the disaster.Ashbery�s book stands a minor classic to help us bulwark the spelunking eye against an �anything goes� contemporary art-culture that would lead us to believe that, well, anything goes....

Nobody seems to remember the utopian art-academies that John Ruskin or Walter Pater (or, heck, even Camille Paglia) bequeathed to us in blueprint, a god-revealing curriculum that combined Renaissance audacity with the semiotic motion-sculptures of modern cinema with the elite conceptual sonatas of post-Nietzschean tragic theater to tear modern culture a new one.Rather we have university arts programs that nurture aggressive extroverts in fashion-victim garb who wouldn�t know the harsh, ascetic legacy of 20th-century modernism if it jumped up the wazoo.

A strong intertextual reading of *Reported Sightings* combined with Ashbery�s collected verse will permit us something of the strong Wildean vision of *The Critic As Artist*, where the vanished statues and apocalyptic chapel-ceilings of Renaissance boldness will be put to work alongside the chemo-industrial landscapes of cyberpunk-capitalism and the world philosophical cinema that lights up our pain fibers at the vanishing point of the man-made horizon, that renews the exploratorium of the Ruskinian and Paterian world-artist in the machine-environments forced on us by exponential cybernetic influx and 24-7 media spamming.....[pause for breath].

Or something to that effect.Lemme work on it.Meanwhile buy the book. ... Read more

14. John Ashbery: Comprehensive Research and Study Guide (Bloom's Major Poets)
Hardcover: 112 Pages (2004-04)
list price: US$31.95 -- used & new: US$2.57
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Asin: 0791078876
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15. John Ashbery and American Poetry
by David Herd
Paperback: 256 Pages (2009-06-15)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$21.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0719080592
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David Herd sets out to provide readers with a new critical language through which they can appreciate the beauty and complexity of Ashbery’s writing.

Presenting the poet in all his forms -- avant-garde, nostalgic, sublime and camp -- the book argues that the perpetual inventiveness of Ashbery’s work has always been underpinned by the poets desire to write the poem fit to cope with its occasion.

Tracing Ashbery’s development in the light of this idea, and from its origins in the dazzling artistic environment of 1950’s New York, the book evaluates his poetry against the aesthetic, literary and historical backgrounds that have informed it.

The story of a brilliant career, and a history of the period in which that career has taken shape, John Ashbery and American Poetry provides a compelling account of Ashbery’s importance to Twentieth Century Literature.

... Read more

16. A Worldly Country: New Poems
by John Ashbery
 Hardcover: Pages (2007-01-01)

Asin: B0027NQU7U
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars notes toward the construction of a new world poetry
i offer merely a rough guideline from john ashbery's poetic blueprint. (for further instructions turn to ashbery's poem `so, yes'.)

ashbery reminiscences a scant nod toward reflection, as in his poem, `litanies', with:

`objects too are important.'


`some of the time they are.'

and then we get the report in, `autumn tea leaves':

`all across europe a partial eclipse
is checking in: unsudden surprise
and it's sister, weary impatience,
mark the flow once the sluices
have been opened a little.'

and the important objects appear in the form of those sluices through which

`she came through smiling...'

to perishable and consumed objects:

`the cakes that were served--
is there a record of those? or leaves collected
in the hollow of a stump ...

or a small sail breasting the apparent tide,
on and out of the forever harbor, just this once?'

and, in `singalong', upon arrival a survey of stock of durable objects, and a final reflection and rest before the settlers set to work:

`it has to be hard
to have brought us this far.

any time soon
we'll manage to build barns,
paint, lock the padlocks, waive anything
dire.that way, we think, it will keep
that way, we think, it will keep
for us and for a while. other
than that we sleep, nod
like reeds at the edge of a pond.
those places left unplanted will be cultivated
by another, by others.'

another, before ashbery, was john berryman and his `homage to mistress bradstreet'.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Blend of Complication and Intoxication
A Worldly Country, John Ashbery's new book of poems is rich with descriptive images which take the reader into unfamiliar territory in familiar surroundings.True to form, the language Ashbery employs is complex, and delicious, luring the reader in and caressing their intellect.Ashbery interlaces his humor and wit into a conversational tone that keeps the reader coming back for more.

Ashbery opens his collection with A Worldly Country, the title poem which is lyrical and rhythmic, and takes us into wartime and peace, chaos and calm. We get the sense of the chaos and turmoil near the middle of the poem:

Leftover bonbons were thrown to the chickens/And geese who squawked like the very dickens./There was no peace in the bathroom, none in the china closet/Or the banks, where no one came to make a deposit./In short all hell broke loose that wide afternoon.

By the end of the poem there is a sense of calm, and profound mortality:

One minute we were up to our necks in rebelliousness,/And the next, peace had subdued the ranks of hellishness.

Ashbery is known for his quest to stump the critics with the meaning behind his poetry, and the difficulty readers have interpreting some of his poems.His quest is clearly continued in this new collection.Although he (Ashbery) asserts that his poetry is about the difficulty of ones own thinking and coming to ones own conclusion, he also believes his poems to be accessible, for those who care to access them.

Although there are one or two poems which are fairly comprehensible, such as The Black Prince which refers to prince Edward, most of the pieces in A Worldly Country could be likened to drinking a cup of spiked punch; the words are familiar, yet once you ingest them, they become strange and intoxicating, sending your head spinning, and your mind into a sotted stupor.

Mottled Tuesday is one such experience. We drink in the familiar words of lines such as;

Amorous ghosts will pursue us/for a time, but sometimes they get, you know, confused and /forget to stop when we do, as they continue to populate this/fertile land with their own bizarre self-imaginings.

Yet when we roll the words around in our mouth, it dizzies our minds trying to come to some sort of universal significance.

This complexity does not dissuade or discourage the reader, but rather encourages them to forge forward, making it a personal quest to uncover a meaning, some meaning, THE meaning to the latest works of art created by one of the best American contemporary poets.

4-0 out of 5 stars Ashbery Does It Again
As a longtime admirer of John Ashbery's poetry, I am happy to say that in his latest collection, A Worldly Country, written in his seventies, he still has his poetry chops.The poems are characterized by the skillful use of language, striking connections, and surprising shifts in tone that are present in his earlier work.There may be more of a melancholy undertone in these poems, but maybe not.Ashbery continues to delight. ... Read more

17. Other Traditions (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
by John Ashbery
Hardcover: 176 Pages (2000-10-30)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$39.32
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Asin: 0674003152
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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One of the greatest living poets in English here exploresthe work of six writers he often finds himself reading “in order toget started” when writing. Among those whom Ashbery reads at suchtimes are John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Raymond Roussel, JohnWheelwright, Laura Riding, and David Schubert. Less familiar thansome, under Ashbery’s scrutiny these poets emerge as the powerfulbut private and somewhat wild voices whose eccentricity has kept themfrom the mainstream--and whose vision merits Ashbery’s efforts, andour own, to read them well. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Gem of Oddities
This book is much smaller than I thought it would be, but this only enhances its gem-like charm; from its rich cover to its finely homespun interior. I thought at first I had heard it all before from Ashbery, in his short Schubert and Roussel essays, and in comments dropped in Reported Sightings; but even when covering the same ground he subtly brings forth new worlds. It's refreshing to hear him talk of these beloved poets, like a tour through the comfortable rooms of his mind, which of course also offers countless insights into Ashbery's own career of poetic journeys. I recommend this book to both literary scavengers of the past and arcane poets of the future, but especially to the intriguing combination of both living a dream right now.

5-0 out of 5 stars a doorway
Every once in a while, I come across a book that opens up new doors for me. They introduce to me to areas of life that I otherwise might never have encountered. Other Traditions by John Ashbery is just such a book.

I have always had a love for, but limited knowledge of, Poetry. It was Edward Hirsch's great book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry that first introduced me to Ashbery's work. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living poets. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to read Other Traditions.

Other Traditions is the book form of a series of lectures given by Ashbery on other poets. Ashbery writes about six of the lesser-known artists who have had an impact on his own life and work. All of them are fascinating. They are:

-John Clare, a master at describing nature who spent the last 27 years of his life in an Asylum.

-Thomas Lovell Beddoes, a rather death obsessed author (he ended up taking his own life) whose greatest poetry consists of fragments that must often be culled from the pages of his lengthy dramas.

-Raymond Roussel, a French author whose magnum opus is actually a book-length sentence.

-John Wheelwright, a politically engaged genius whose ultra-dense poetry even Ashbery has a hard time describing or comprehending.

-Laura Riding, a poet of great talent and intellect who chose to forsake poetry (check out the copyright page).

-David Schubert, an obscure poet who Ashbery feels is one of the greatest of the Twentieth Century.

The two that I was most pleasantly surprised by are Clare and Riding.

Clare has become (since I picked up a couple of his books) one of my favorite poets. He is a master at describing rural life. I know of no one quite like him. Ashbery's true greatness as a critic comes out when he depicts Clare as "making his rounds."

Riding, on the other hand, represents the extreme version of every author's desire for the public to read their work in a precise way--the way the author intends it to be read. Her intense combativeness and sensitivity to criticism is as endearing as it is humorous.

Other Traditions has given me a key to a whole new world of books. For that I am most grateful.

I give this book my full recommendation.

4-0 out of 5 stars What Ashbery Values
Here are six essays by John Ashbery about six of his favourite minor poets, ranging from John Clare, born in 1790s England, to David Schubert, born 1913 in New York.John Brooks Wheelwright and Laura Riding are included, from the early 20th century, as is Raymond Roussel (a French precursor to anti-novelists, a specialist in parenthetical labyrinths, and endlessly detailed descriptions of bottle-labels).We have, too, the doomed author of "Death's Jest Book," the 19th-century poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes.

These essays are engaging and readable, informed and informative without being pedantic.There are anecdotes, too (about Riding, most notably, who is aptly diagnosed by Ashbery as "a control freak").We notice that half of the authors are homosexual or possibly so, most either committed suicide or had a parent who did so, three were affected by mental problems, and the majority were ardent leftists (Riding being an exception).

To this reader, the two Johns, Clare and Wheelwright, are the most immediately endearing, and David Schubert's disjunctive colloquial tone does fascinate.Some of the comments about the gang of six do shed some light into Ashbery's curious methods:Clare's mucky down-to-earthiness and Beddoes' elegant, enamelled "fleurs-du-mal" idiom both being "necessary" components of poetry, in Ashbery's view.Some of Wheelwright's elastic sonnets have a Saturday Evening Post-type folksiness that is often found in Ashbery's own poetic inventions; Schubert's poems (in Rachel Hadas's words) "seem(ing) to consist of slivers gracefully or haphazardly fitted together."An aside: Look at the first two lines of Schubert's "Happy Traveller."Couldn't that be John Ashbery?About Raymond Roussel, whose detractors accuse him of saying nothing, Ashbery mounts an impatient defence that reads like a self-defence: "If 'nothing' means a labyrinth of brilliant stories told only for themselves, then perhaps Roussel has nothing to say.Does he say it badly?Well, he writes like a mathematician."

We learn that Ashbery is not fond of E E Cummings, and he is unconvincingly semi-penitent of this "blind spot":Cummings, with his Herrick-like lucidity, his straightforward heterosexuality, and his resolute nonleftism, would not appear to fit nicely into Ashbery's pantheon.Ashbery even takes a few mischievous swipes at John Keats -- rather, he quotes George Moore doing so.Ashbery will doubtless forgive his readers if our enthusiasm for the poetry of Keats and Cummings remains undiminished.

There is much in the poetry explored by "Other Traditions" that is dark and bothersome; but there are felicities.These lectures form a fascinating kind of ars-poetica-in-prose by one of America's cleverest and most vexing of poets.

5-0 out of 5 stars Unusual perspective on poetry
Instead of offering predictable comments on well-known poets, John Ashbery has chosen to explain his preference for seemingly eccentric figures like John Clare and Raymond Roussel. While Ashbery is a difficult poet, his prose is reader-friendly; this book, then, provides insight into Ashbery's own unique poetic sensibility, as well as into the poets and writers he has chosen.

This book provokes thought about issues of literary value. Why does Ashbery find supposedly "minor" figures more inspiring of his own writing?Are his arguments for the value of these figures ultimately convincing?Do marginality and eccentricity have an intrinsic value for him?Before reading this book I did know something about Laura Riding, Raymond Roussel, and John Clare; the other writers came as revelations to me.I am not convinced that every figure treated is of equal interest, but I am fascinated by Ashbery's own responses to these practically unknown "cult authors." ... Read more

18. A Wave: Poems
by John Ashbery
Paperback: 96 Pages (1998-03-18)
list price: US$11.00 -- used & new: US$8.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374525471
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First published in 1984 and now appearing in a new edition, A Wave is widely considered one of Ashbery's finest books of poetry. The 44 pieces collected here--particularly the long title-poem--find the poet applying his uniquely lyric, meditative, and often hilarious sensibility to the mysterious and incessant curves and crests of love, art, thought, experience, and selfhood.
... Read more

19. A Nest of Ninnies
by John Ashbery, James Schuyler
Paperback: 191 Pages (2008-12-12)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$4.95
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Asin: 1564785203
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"James Schuyler and I began writing A Nest of Ninnies purely by chance," writes John Ashbery in his new introduction to this classic of American comic fiction. "We were in a car being driven by the young cameraman, Harrison Starr, with his father as a passenger in the front seat . . . Jimmy said, 'Why don't we write a novel?' And how do we do that, I asked. 'It's easy—you write the first line,' was his reply." The result is one of the strangest and most exuberant experiments in American literary history, a verbal tour de force of suburban Americana. First published in 1969, A Nest of Ninnies is a true gem-in-the-rough, the decades-long collaborative project from two of the great poetic minds of the twentieth century. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Uncle Albert Says: abandon yourself to the pleasures of farce
If you love farce from Faydeau through Wodehouse through Joe Keenan (Blue Heaven, Putting on the Ritz, and the first few years of Frasier) you'll love this book. If you don't, please don't read it. I picked it up because it's by two of the '50s era New York School poets, Ashbery and Schuyler. I happen to enjoy that school of poetry, even more than I love their contemporary West Coast poets like Ginsberg, Corso, and company (and I love those too). This is the sort of delightful ego exercise on the part of the author(s) where you turn the key and let the author do the driving--at any speed he wishes. In the end, none of the characters are important, no great moral lessons are learned, what happens and where it happens are more decorative than narrative or metaphorical. You have drinks with a friend and during the course of the evening, the friend tells you this long involved story that is fascinating because he's your friend. And when the evening ends and you both go your separate ways, it was a great evening for no reason more complicated than you spent it with a great friend, who can tell some whopping good stories. Dump all that earnest book-reading you picked up in school and church and let yourself go; read this book and others like it (see Faydeau, Wodehouse, Keenan and company) as one of the top five pleasures of life. You've already abandoned yourself to numbers one and two and survived, right?

4-0 out of 5 stars Honey I wrote a novel
This novel doesn't exactly break the sound barrier -- Auden went a little overboard in calling it a minor classic -- but is "likable enough," like Hillary Clinton, and has the unpredictability of the game it started as. Ashbery and Schuyler wrote it one sentence at a time: A. started with "Alice was tired," and it blossomed, to the extent that it did, from there. The first third is fairly choppy as a result; however, as the novel progresses it settles into its narrative arc, and the closing scenes are excellent conventional farce. (A plot summary would be inappropriate: one of the pleasures of this book is figuring out where it's trying to go.) The writing is spirited and sporadically brilliant -- both authors won Pulitzers in poetry -- but not very interesting as prose. On the whole, this book is recommended for Ashbery or Schuyler fans, connoisseurs of camp, and those with an interest in how novels are constructed. Others might find it self-indulgent.

5-0 out of 5 stars Auden was right
This book deserves to be recognized as the "minor classic" W. H. Auden thought it was destined to become.The high camp of much of the proceedings only makes the book more profound in its investigation of the contemporary manners of negotiating affect through objects.In this it looks back to Wilde and Henry James, as it does also in its arch staging of the objectification of a mystified "Europe."Entirely fascinating, urbanely hilarious.

4-0 out of 5 stars a good romp
Who would think that two experimental poets could write a comic novel without stylistic pretensions? There's nothing profound here, just a quick read with plenty of laughs. The title conveys the substance fairly well:Schuyler and Ashbery have created a cast of middle- to upper-class foolsfor whom they have little respect. This could, of course, be fairlytiresome ("aren't the bourgeosie so silly!"), if it weren't forthe authors' keen sense of humor. Think of this as a detailed pitch for agood Woody Allen movie, or a Firbank novel for the mid-twentieth century. ... Read more

20. The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry
Paperback: 288 Pages (1995-05-30)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$29.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0817307672
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A capacious collection of post-Ashbery US poetics...
This is a superb, well-crafted, and capacius collection of the post-Ashbery US poetics which pervades the very climate of Americanist thinking about poetic subjectivity, language, identity, the trauma ofbroken narcissism, the promise of the sublime after Wallace Stevens andAndre Breton and so on.

The range of poets who consider themselves inwhat she calls "the tribe of John" is quite amazing in itself,what you might congregate as "the other tradition" ofdis-Americanizing, wild, and risk-taking poetics from Bernstein to Creeley,Walter Lew, and John Yau et al.Saludos, Susan, for your care andtransnational vision of the future. This is a fine work of culturalpoetics, that should move out beyond poetry enclaves as such into"cultural studies." of US selfhood and the mongrel banality/ ofAmerican language. ... Read more

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