Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyWhile Ashbery is usually thought of as a complex, insular poet, he often reveals a sense of childlike wonder at the world: ``The spring, though mild, is incredibly wet./ I have spent the afternoon blowing soap bubbles.'' And if he is a writer who tackles eternal verities, the poet's selection of his verse for this collection shows that his immediate topics range from Popeye the Sailor to the Aquarian Age, Warren G. Harding and the weather. Ashbery recognizes that the creative artist today is ``barely tolerated, living on the margin/ in our technological society.'' Lyrics, long prose-poem meditations, haiku, conversational ramblings, and musings reminiscent of Wallace Stevens attest to the full range of his experimentalism. His themes are the growth of the self through pain, the possibilities for personal happiness, the distance between seeing and knowing. December
Library JournalSelf-Portrait won a Pulizer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award, but Ashbery remains famously abstruse. "Something important is going on here," says LJ reviewer Graham Christian, "and on the chance that we figure it out, Selected Poems is worth having."
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