John Ashbery

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John Ashbery Biography

John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial. In an article on Elizabeth Bishop in his Selected Prose, he charac ...

John Ashbery Poems

1.
Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
...

2.
Just Walking Around

What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,
...

3.
Daffy Duck In Hollywood

Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
...

4.
My Philosophy Of Life

Just when I thought there wasn't room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea--
call it a philosophy of life, if you will.Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
...

5.
Farm Implements And Rutabagas In A Landscape

The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits
in thunder,
Unthought of. From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain's hue, a tangram emerges: a country."
...

John Ashbery Quotes

11 November 2014

... the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east of the sun and west of the moon.

11 November 2014

If you need a certain vitality you can only supply it yourself, or there comes a point, anyway, when no one's actions but your own seem dramatically convincing and justifiable in the plot that the number of your days concocts.

11 November 2014

It is the time we have now, and all our wasted time sinks into the sea and is swallowed up without a trace. The past is dust and ashes, and this incommensurably wide way leads to the pragmatic and kinetic future.

11 November 2014

Yes, in the long run there is something to be said for these shiftless days, each distilling its drop of poison until the cup is full; there is something to be said for them because there is no escaping them.

11 November 2014

There is the view that poetry should improve your life. I think people confuse it with the Salvation Army.

John Ashbery Comments

Gilles Goyette 14 January 2012

You change the way I read. You change my expectations of language. Always a challenge, but completely worth the effort.

21 7 Reply
p.a. noushad 24 October 2008

beautiful your nerration is.

14 10 Reply
Adrian Grant 31 January 2018

Wilfully obscure, rambling, unmusical, self-indulgent crap. No wonder he wrote so many collections. And no wonder he won so many prizes during the height of Modernism. This kind of stuff is catnip to literary critics and literature academics, because it would appear to require exegesis, thus promoting them into a kind of priesthood.

3 5 Reply
Lawrence Beck 25 November 2016

This man's work is garbage. He's obviously extremely lazy, and why not? Every dumb-ass critic in the country has decided that he's the greatest. Gee, I wonder why nobody reads poetry.

5 16 Reply
Raymond Farrell 19 December 2015

The atuff that has been posted on PH is readable although it is debateable what it means, but most of Ashbery's stuff makes me wonder if he isn't a mental case in search of a diagnosis.

4 7 Reply
Sharon Parker 25 October 2014

Mr. Ashbery forces the reader to change too many horses in the middle of an unending stream on order to get to the other side only to find it was the sound of the river that was the attraction rather than the substance of the opposite shore

7 6 Reply
Gk Thomas 17 November 2012

These are the readable poems, but most of Ashberry isn't readable. I'm sorry, but if a poem can only be understood by the poet's explication then he needs to supply that explication along with the poem. Otherwise he/she is merely playing the effete. And who of us would not be considered a poetic genius if we, and we alone, are the sole authority of that meaning? Lazarus rose from the fire of the salad bowl/ consumed exquisite Orpheus/ to the knight's maiden ravished knot of hope. Who wrote this passage from a terribly long poem? A poetic genius or a hoaxer? Careful you might guess wrong.

23 22 Reply