"John Ashbery's poetry has always been considered difficult to understand. Readers have been frustrated in their attempt even to say what his poems are about. As a member of the New York School of Poetry, Ashbery was attracted early in his career to the Abstract Expressionists, whose paintings also defy simple paraphrase. Like theirs, Ashbery's subject may be described as pure consciousness. DuBois (Univ. of Toronto, Scarborough) attempts to elucidate Ashbery through an analysis of a major category of consciousness, namely, 'attention.' Through a chronological study of Ashbery's work, DuBois focuses on Ashbery's development as a poet beginning with his experiments with numerous poetic forms, his use of prose in his poetry, and his efforts at stream of consciousness. In the same way readers are easily distracted by all the assaults on their attention from constant aural and visual stimuli, so too is the poet. Ashbery's poems are, in part, a record of the difficulty of keeping one's attention focused on any single subject of a poem. Both the reader and the writer share the poetic journey of floating through a miasma of interruptions and distractions. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students through faculty."
“Ashbery’s Forms of Attention is well conceived, critically insightful, and elegantly written. DuBois’s treatment of Ashbery’s work is theoretically sophisticated, yet largely free of jargon and obscurity.”John Koethe, author of Poetry at One Remove: Essays
“DuBois has written a magnificent book, one that will not only make a major contribution to Ashbery criticism but also change the ways in which poetry criticism is conducted.”John Shoptaw, author of On the Outside Looking Out: John Ashbery’s Poetry