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Overview

For over 50 years John Ashbery has been one of America's most innovative and influential poets. Like Yeats and Milosz, Ashbery is that rare poet whose work continues to improve as he ages. Now at 85, he writes with the boldness and vision of a poet half his age. Honed by experience and inexhaustibly creative, these never before published poems certify that Ashbery's artistic flame has continued to burn late into his life.

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Overview

For over 50 years John Ashbery has been one of America's most innovative and influential poets. Like Yeats and Milosz, Ashbery is that rare poet whose work continues to improve as he ages. Now at 85, he writes with the boldness and vision of a poet half his age. Honed by experience and inexhaustibly creative, these never before published poems certify that Ashbery's artistic flame has continued to burn late into his life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When it comes to reviews, it’s become as problematic to challenge Ashbery’s work as to praise it. Part of the reason is that with every new Ashbery collection, we encounter moments of irreducible beauty—like when “tanks retreat/ as though the war was never meant/ and none of us were supposed to die as/ we in fact weren’t”—alongside moments of cringe-worthy irony and cliché (“Don’t try this at home” begins “Suburban Burma”). For a long time now the two have canceled each other out. And the elephant in the room, at least in the last 20 years, has been the question of whether Ashbery is leaning on his own style instead of continuing to push his boundaries as an artist. Here, for example, are a handful of titles from the collection, each of which banks on the double-entendre colloquialism that’s been a staple of conservative poetry since the ‘90s: “Quick Question,” “Feel Free,” “Puff Piece,” “Laundry List,” “The Short Answer,” “False Report,” “Words to That Effect.” On one hand, the genius of Ashbery’s work is that it’s always rippling and changing its colors: “Like a windup denture in a joke store/ fate approaches, leans quietly,” he writes in “A Voice from the Fireplace.” On the other hand, it stands to reason that constant change is itself a form of stasis. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Octogenarian Ashbery continues his informal reign as poet laureate of the multiverse, producing poems that channel an unimpeded flow of words that may or may not accumulate into sense. Any given line doesn't so much follow the one before it as replace it entirely, erasing the past, rendering all questions ("Would I lie to you?") and attempted answers moot. As always, the poet's affable, rhetorical ease lends an ersatz logic to his improvisations ("The drive down was smooth/ but after we arrived things started to go haywire") until we find ourselves caught in his signature torrents of comically surreal images ("Like a windup denture in a joke store/ fate approaches") and impenetrable aphorisms ("Better a silent/ accordion than a chorus of harps"). VERDICT Governed by the dynamics of change and disappearance, Ashbery's career-long "impish narrative" may ultimately embody a Seinfeldian meta-poetry about nothing, but both veteran and novice Ashbery readers will discover moments of epiphany amid the apparent chaos of this collection.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062225962
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 432,170
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ashbery is the author of more than twenty books of poetry. his many awards include a Pulitzer Prize and, in 2012, a National Humanities Medal presented by President Obama at the White House.

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