About John Ashbery
A native of Rochester, New York, John Ashbery (b. 1927) is the prolific author of twenty three volumes of poetry, plus fiction, plays and criticism. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including The Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, all of which were garnered by his 1976 collection Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror. This was the first and remains the only time that one book has been awarded all three of the major American literary prizes and demonstrates Ashbery's centrality to American poetics in the post-war period.
This leading role is all the more remarkable given the uncompromising experimentalism of Ashbery's work. A key concept is "indeterminacy"; a refusal of finality and closure and a rejection of traditional forms of linear narrative. The subject of an Ashbery poem is more likely to be the process of thought itself rather than the object of the mind's attention. An early poem, 'The Instruction Manual', is a good introduction as it traces the narrator's wandering consciousness from the text of the title through his kaleidoscopic vision of the Mexican city of Guadalajara, back to the reality of the manual which nevertheless has "made me dream". This circular movement is characteristic; it's the journey not the destination that's important, as in his tellingly entitled poem 'Just Walking Around': "the longest way is the most efficient way,/The one that looped among islands, and/You always seemed to be traveling in a circle." Not surprisingly, Ashbery favours the long poem and his restlessness is also evident in his use of language which mixes high and low culture to produce a poetry of disjunction and non-sequitur. Playful and rigorous, Ashbery's poems embrace plurality enacting the hope expressed in 'For John Clare': "There ought to be room for more things,for a spreading out, like."
As befits a poet alert to the instability of meaning and identity, Ashbery eschews explanations of his Archive-recorded poems. The text exists in its own right: Ashbery's precise, largely unmodulated tones are just the medium through which it is conveyed.
His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 18 October 2002 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Additional material and useful links
"Plenty of Sublimated Rin Tin Tin"
Guy Maddin Talks about John Ashberyhttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=179637
Billy Collins and David Shapiro read Ashbery
Live readings of two John Ashbery poems by Billy Collins and David Shapiro, from a celebration of Ashbery's poetry put on by The New School in New York City.http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=39
The Beginnings Concept: A Discussion of John Ashbery's "Crossroads in the Past"
Hosted by Al Filreis and featuring poets Thomas Devaney, Gregory Djanikian & Jessica Lowenthal.http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=537
What If It Doesn't Make Sense?
Matthew Zapruder parses a John Ashbery poemhttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=1592
You're Always Moving Toward Silence
The editors discuss a new John Ashbery poem from the March issue. Plus, Seth Abramson, Katy Didden, and Fanny Howe on her memoir The Winter Sun.http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=727
Planisphere, Carcanet 2009
Collected Poems 1956-1987, Carcanet 2010
Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems, Carcanet Press...Buy
Selected Prose, The University of Michigan Press, 2004Buy
Walt Whitman Hom(m)age 2005/1855, Turtle Point Press...Buy
A Worldly Country, Carcanet Press 2007Buy
The Mirrored Clubs of Hell, Little Brown & Co, 1991Buy
Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1998Buy
Where Shall I Wander, Carcanet, 2005Buy
John Ashbery Reading from his poems
1The Instruction Manual
3For John Clare
4Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape
5What Is Poetry
6At North Farm
7The Songs We Know Best
8Landscape (After Baudelaire)
9Just Walking Around
10More Pleasant Adventures
13If You Said You Would Come With Me
15The Bobinski Brothers
16The History of My Life
17A Nice Presentation
19Theme Park Days
20View of Delft
21The Lightning Conductor
22I Asked Mr. Dithers Whether It Was time Yet He Said No to Wait
25Sir Gammer Vans
Poetry happens at a sort of junction in the mind when new combinations start up, words and pictures start connecting...