John Ashbery writes like no one else among contemporary American poets. In the construction of his intricate patterns, he uses words much as the contemporary painter uses form and color- words painstakingly chosen as conveyors of precise meaning, not as representations of sound. These linked in unexpected juxtapositions, at first glance unrelated and even anarchic, in the end create by their clashing interplay a structure of dazzling brilliance and strong emotional impact. From this preoccupation arises a poetry that passes beyond conventional limits into a highly individual realm of effectiveness, one that may be roughly likened to the visual world of Surrealist painting. Some will find Mr. Ashbery’s work difficult, even forbidding; but those who are sensitive to new directions in ideas and the arts will discover here much to quicken and delight them.
A 35th anniversary edition of classic work from a celebrated American poet who has received the Pulitzer Prize, the national Book Award, and the national Book Critics Circle Award. John Ashbery’s second book, The Tennis Court Oaths, first published by Wesleyan in 1962, remains a touchstone of contemporary avant-garde poetry.
About the Author
JOHN ASHBERY, a native of Rochester, New York, has lived since 1958 in Paris, where he is art critic for the New York herald tribune European edition and for Art International of Zurich. He spent two earlier years in France as a Fulbright fellow, in Montpellier and Paris; he has also been connected with Art News in New York and with two American publishing houses, Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill. He is a graduate of Harvard and has done advanced work at Columbia and N.Y.U., specializing in French literature. His poems have appeared in various magazines and in privately printed collections. The present book is his second. Its predecessor was Some Trees (Yale Series of Younger Poets, 1956)- “the most beautiful first book to appear in America,” said Poetry Magazine, “since [Wallace Stevens’] Harmonium.”