John Ashbery

John Ashbery, who died in 2017, published more than thirty poems in the LRB. He won many prizes for his poetry, including the Pulitzer and the National Book Award for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. His first collection, Some Trees, appeared in 1956; his last, Commotion of the Birds, in 2016.

Poem: ‘Understandably’

John Ashbery, 5 May 2016

It’s beautiful, and all that: the corner student with the carpet tunnel or you just don’t know where to get one which is all that matters. I didn’t know but what during our recent homecoming specialvery good plastic muffins were featured, (the cement trees yesterday),

and that probably wouldn’t be a surprise. Turn the window off. The stars, what happens next?...

Poem: ‘Die Meistersinger’

John Ashbery, 17 March 2016

Only​ those who actively dislike poetry didn’t like him. The others could care less. There were too many other things to worry about, like is my licence expired yet? Fortunately there were a few in-between, those who school themselves to take an interest in everything, which is not to say they’re not truly, deeply interested in the things that matter most. To them he was a...

Poem: ‘Passive/Aggressive’

John Ashbery, 21 January 2016

We were driving along at twenty-five miles an hour. ‘Desperate’ wants to know how the angle tree has went. Or we now can live over a wombat factory, said the woman coming in to see him about something.

And I was like, a beautiful little tree, or lake. Just the sandwiches now, we’ll look at the rest later when you’re out of time … Oh yeah? Oh, yeah....

Poem: ‘Heading Out’

John Ashbery, 4 December 2014

A single drop fills the rainbow glass. The fountain overflows. How come the purr and passing of this every night arrives at stealth? Just – be prepared. If it happens every day around this time it happens more than twice. I’d wager this one has nothing in it. So’s your old man. We get called out often on all kinds of suspicious business, he decried. Like when the kittens...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 25 September 2014

The Goofiad

Um, it wasn’t my project to prise them apart. Pale Jessica had come full circle. Case in point: she spelled one application under presidential law. How it became one of the names one can’t recall.

But on the other hand good old people watch the convention. It’s guaranteed, and not be president. People had yet to live

and believe your own cameras which it...

Remember the Yak: John Ashbery

Michael Robbins, 9 September 2010

It’s been two years since the last one, so it must be time for a new book of poems by John Ashbery. Like the old James Bond films, Ashbery’s late instalments arrive punctually, and...

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Heavy Lifting: John Ashbery

John Palattella, 7 June 2001

A little over thirty years ago, John Ashbery delivered a lecture at the Yale Art School called ‘The Invisible Avant-Garde’, in which he asked whether the distinction between the...

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Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Famous poems, like faces, are a particularly memorable kind of introduction to the person they conceal. Like other kinds of introduction, they are often what we remember a person for, or what we...

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O Harashbery!

C.K. Stead, 23 April 1992

I remember the pleasure of my first reading of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems when it came out in 1964 in a City Lights edition uniform (except that it was blue and red, not black and...

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At the Café Central

Andrew Forge, 22 March 1990

For as long as he has been exhibiting Kitaj has been publishing commentary on his pictures. With him the two activities interlock, coming closer to the idea of the calligram that Foucault played...

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Mark Ford, 19 January 1989

This is Ciaran Carson’s second collection of poems. His first, The New Estate (1976), revealed an intricate, lyrical poet intensely aware of traditional Irish cultures, and concerned to...

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Like Tristram Shandy, Delmore Schwartz so hated his name that he sometimes used to attribute all of his misfortunes to it. It was an obsession he enjoyed feeding: he would invent ridiculous...

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John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

Professor Vendler’s soul is in peril. Reviewing Black American broadsides in 1974, she found it ‘sinful that anthologies and Collected Works should betray the poems they print by...

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Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

In ‘A Wave’, the title-poem of his new collection, John Ashbery says, among many other things: One idea is enough to organise a life and project it Into unusual but viable forms, but...

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The Poetry of John Ashbery

John Bayley, 2 September 1982

The poet’s mind used to make up stories: now it investigates the reasons why it is no longer able to do so. Consciousness picks its way in words through a meagre indeterminate area which it...

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