Image by Sedar Pakay

John Ashbery

b. 1927


For me, poetry is very much the time that it takes to unroll, the way music does...it's not a static, contemplatable thing like a painting or a piece of sculpture. - John Ashbery

Local Legend

John Ashbery

Just Walking Around

John Ashbery

What Is Poetry

John Ashbery

For John Clare

John Ashbery

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About John Ashbery

A native of Rochester, New York, John Ashbery (b. 1927) is the prolific author of twenty three volumes of poetry, plus fiction, plays and criticism. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including The Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, all of which were garnered by his 1976 collection Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror. This was the first and remains the only time that one book has been awarded all three of the major American literary prizes and demonstrates Ashbery's centrality to American poetics in the post-war period.



This leading role is all the more remarkable given the uncompromising experimentalism of Ashbery's work. A key concept is "indeterminacy"; a refusal of finality and closure and a rejection of traditional forms of linear narrative. The subject of an Ashbery poem is more likely to be the process of thought itself rather than the object of the mind's attention. An early poem, 'The Instruction Manual', is a good introduction as it traces the narrator's wandering consciousness from the text of the title through his kaleidoscopic vision of the Mexican city of Guadalajara, back to the reality of the manual which nevertheless has "made me dream". This circular movement is characteristic; it's the journey not the destination that's important, as in his tellingly entitled poem 'Just Walking Around': "the longest way is the most efficient way,/The one that looped among islands, and/You always seemed to be traveling in a circle." Not surprisingly, Ashbery favours the long poem and his restlessness is also evident in his use of language which mixes high and low culture to produce a poetry of disjunction and non-sequitur. Playful and rigorous, Ashbery's poems embrace plurality enacting the hope expressed in 'For John Clare': "There ought to be room for more things,for a spreading out, like."



As befits a poet alert to the instability of meaning and identity, Ashbery eschews explanations of his Archive-recorded poems. The text exists in its own right: Ashbery's precise, largely unmodulated tones are just the medium through which it is conveyed.



His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 18 October 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

"Plenty of Sublimated Rin Tin Tin"

Guy Maddin Talks about John Ashbery

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=179637

Billy Collins and David Shapiro read Ashbery

Live readings of two John Ashbery poems by Billy Collins and David Shapiro, from a celebration of Ashbery's poetry put on by The New School in New York City.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=39

The Beginnings Concept: A Discussion of John Ashbery's "Crossroads in the Past"

Hosted by Al Filreis and featuring poets Thomas Devaney, Gregory Djanikian & Jessica Lowenthal.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=537

What If It Doesn't Make Sense?

Matthew Zapruder parses a John Ashbery poem

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=1592

You're Always Moving Toward Silence

The editors discuss a new John Ashbery poem from the March issue. Plus, Seth Abramson, Katy Didden, and Fanny Howe on her memoir The Winter Sun.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=727

Prizes

1988 1999 Chancellor, Academy of American Poets

1988-1999 Chancellor, Academy of American Poets

Selected bibliography

Planisphere, Carcanet 2009

Collected Poems 1956-1987, Carcanet 2010

Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems, Carcanet Press...

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Selected Prose, The University of Michigan Press, 2004

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Walt Whitman Hom(m)age 2005/1855, Turtle Point Press 2006

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A Worldly Country, Carcanet Press 2007

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The Mirrored Clubs of Hell, Little Brown & Co, 1991

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Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1998

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Where Shall I Wander, Carcanet, 2005

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The New York Poets: an anthology, Carcanet, 2004

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John Ashbery in conversation with Mark Ford, London,...

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Chinese Whispers, Carcanet, 2002 and Farrar, Straus and...

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As Umbrellas Follow Rain, Jamestown, Qua Books, 2001

Your Name Here, Carcanet, 2000 and Farrar, Straus and...

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Other Traditions (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at...

Girls on the Run, Carcanet, 1999 and Farrar, Straus and...

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Wakefulness, Carcanet, 1998 and Farrar, Straus and...

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The Mooring of Starting Out: the first five books of...

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Can You Hear, Bird, Carcanet, 1996 and Farrar, Straus...

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Raymond Roussel, How I Wrote Certain of My Books and...

And the Stars Were Shining, Carcanet, 1994 and Farrar,...

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Pierre Martory, The Landscape is Behind the Door (...

Hotel Lautréamont, Carcanet, 1992 and Farrar, Straus and...

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Pierre Reverdy, Selected Poems (translator), Newcastle-...

Flow Chart, Carcanet, 1991 and Farrar Straus and Giroux...

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Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987, Carcanet,...

April Galleons, Carcanet, 1988 and Farrar, Straus and...

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Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1986 and USA, Penguin, 1986

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A Wave, Carcanet, 1984 and Farrar, Straus and Giroux,...

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Shadow Train, Carcanet, 1982 and Viking, 1981 - out of...

As We Know, Carcanet, 1981 and Viking, 1979 - out of...

Houseboat Days, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,...

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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Manchester, Carcanet,...

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The Vermont Notebook, Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press,...

Three Poems, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972

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The Double Dream of Spring, New York, E. P. Dutton...

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Rivers and Mountains, New York, Holt, Rinehart and...

Camouflage, Jean Perrault (translator), New York, Lines...

The Tennis Court Oath, Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan...

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Some Trees, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1956

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Turandot and Other Poems, New York, Tibor de Nagy...

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I really enjoyed listening to all the poems in the Archive. It's fantastic to hear poets reading their own work. It...

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