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Where Shall I Wander : New Poems Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 1, 2005

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, March 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This 23rd collection from Harold Bloom's favorite living American poet is a modestly scaled affair: it doesn't end with a grand long poem, which has become an Ashbery trademark since Rivers and Mountains, nor is it especially big like Can You Hear, Bird nor does it even contain many poems that extend more than three pages (the title poem, at seven pages, is the longest). The book as a whole takes the pleasures of games and makes of them poetic seductions; the adjective "Ashberian"—part Joseph Cornell, part Henry James, part Close Encounters—is perhaps the only one possible to describe the work at this point: "Another's narrative supplants the crawling/ stock-market quotes. Like all good things/ life tends to go on too long.../ Rains bathe the rainbow,/ and the shape of night is an empty cylinder,/ focused at us, urging its noncompliance/ closer along the way we chose to go." Perhaps his secret is in providing us with the experience of terrible encounter in the comfort of our own poem, one that we can choose to occupy for years, even after discovering the beating heart under the floorboards. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ashbery expresses a sly playfulness, a tender theatricality, a surreal sensibility, and an urbane wit. With more than 20 poetry collections to his name, this master of the humorous meditation, this maestro of scintillating streams of consciousness, this perpetuator of the Wallace Stevens' school of philosophical reflection and manicured whimsy frolics in language as though words are flowers and each page is an exotic arrangement. For Ashbery, language is both artifice and life. His new poems are especially sharp, arch, and complexly moody. Rife with allusions to literature and art, they swing teasingly between the vernacular and the rarefied as Ashbery contrasts the more gracious past with the pressing present even as he mocks nostalgia. His characters (his poems are skits, fables, journal entries, and monologues) are full of longing and ruefulness as they reveal and conceal their feelings, performing parlor tricks of the soul to assuage their bruised hearts and fear of age and death. Mercurial, elegant, funny, and magical, these mind-bending and beautifully haunting poems are the knowing work of a virtuoso. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060765291
  • ASIN: B000EBCP3U
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,810,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia University, and went to France as a Fulbright Scholar in 1955, living there for much of the next decade.

His many collections include Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (2007), which was awarded the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) won the three major American prizes--the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award--and an early book, Some Trees (1956), was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series. The Library of America published the first volume of his collected poems in 2008.

Active in various areas of the arts throughout his career, he has served as executive editor of Art News and as art critic for New York magazine and Newsweek. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1988 to 1999. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was a MacArthur Fellow from 1985 to 1990. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He lives in New York.

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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Anderson on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It would be easy to review this book in light of Mr Ashbery's pre-eminent position in contemporary American poetry, sprinkling references to the dazzling virtuosity that has filled each of his more than twenty books of poetry. WHERE SHALL I WANDER follows in the sparkling wake of Mr Ashbery's previous books as surely (to borrow his phrase) "as umbrellas follow rain." But there's more to this collection than merely crowning his previous efforts. In WHERE SHALL I WANDER, an awareness of age--and the spirit's stubborn resistance to it--emerge in passages that glide by us, offering up no wisdom, no pat rational answers for a life lived largely in the shadow of a mountain of experience. In the end, what holds these poems together, despite their inherent intent to separate, is the reader, and this permits each of us to identify with the author in ways no other poet permits. Much has been made of Mr Ashbery's obscurity and impersonality. But, as time goes by and Mr Ashbery's ouvre increases, he has emerged as neither obscure nor impersonal. In WHERE SHALL I WANDER, he is just the opposite, registering the queer particulars of our post-modern world so deeply that each poem moves us in ways that defy explication. The amazing result--far from frustration--is a delight and elation unique in modern (and post-modern) poetry.

...Like all good things

life tends to go on too long, and when we smile

in mute annoyance, pauses for a moment.

Rains bathe the rainbow,

and the shape of night is an empty cylinder,

focused at us, urging its noncompliance

closer along the way we chose to go.

As far as I'm concerned, what is conveyed in Mr Ashbery's new book is wisdom enough for a lifetime--his own or anyone's.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Case Quarter VINE VOICE on August 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
if there's anything such as a pure poet, then ashbery, call him consummate, is it. for decades he's fit recognizable phrases in unrelated patterns in rigid poetic forms, and by eluding meaning he has managed to elicit from, and for, his reader moods reserved for the most meaningful verse and prose.

his precursors, to use a word popularized by his biggest literary fan, harold bloom, were the french symbolists and surrealists, and the american poet wallace stevens. like stevens, asbery's verse has always been immersed in place. whereas stevens place is a kind of dreamed spanish south america, ashbery's place remains the middle north america. even when foreign authors and countries are mentioned, you know he's in the united states. in the title poem, Where Shall I Wander, the poet asks `Is it Japan/where you are? and offers harrowing clues of `slate prisons', `blood forming at the end of an icicle', `fire tongs (not to be confused with chinese tongs, that would be a red herring, now that would be hot)', `conversations at night not meant to be overheard'. all this is preceded by the assertion `it is understood that this is now the past, sixty, sixty-four years ago.' subtract from the publication date of the book in 2005 and the `now' is pearl harbor, war prisoners and maybe the interred japanese american citizens. but that's just the first few stanzas. the rest of the poem reads like a wander through new york city's museum of modern art.

a word to the wise has always been not to read too much into any bunch of accumulated words, which does not hold with ashbery, his words are an invitation to read into them as much as you can possibly imagine.
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The title of this book is funny to me, because John Ashbery knows precisely where he's going, and has never made any apologies for his opacity along the way. i understand that he basically represents the pinnacle of poetry written by aesthetes for other aesthetes, which is slimy in more ways than one, but the other perspective is that experimental artists push the boundaries of expression. this willingness to risk pathos and popularity, at the top of its form, is liberating. when the risk does not yield what was hoped for (however amorphous that hope may have been), the work becomes sacrificial, and this too is useful to the process and spirit of experimentation. think of reading Ashbery like going to a really great flea market or rummage sale. it doesn't necessarily make a ton of sense but you can understand each individual object by its relation to a larger environment at a given time. and sometimes, you come away with a Zima baseball cap, 5 miniature screwdrivers, a purple scarf, and maybe like a bunch of old bunting that you'll never put up but is nice anyhow. doesn't that sound fun? try to dig it like that.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander (Ecco, 2005)

John Ashbery, the Old Man of the Mountains of the L=A=N=G= (okay, that's enough, I'm not spelling out the whole silly thing) movement, has gradually, in his poetry, been sounding more and more like a normal human being over the past forty years. With Where Shall I Wander, Ashbery passes almost fully into the realm of normaldom; there are a few obvious twists that pop up from his irresponsible youth, but when you couch them in such poems as this, one can rationalize them as influences from the dadas, say, or the futurists, rather than the rather senseless stuff Ashbery and his contemporaries turned out for so long.

All this is to say, of course, that Where Shall I Wander is not only easily Ashbery's finest book to date, but it's the kind of book that you might be able to hand someone who "doesn't like poetry" and have them come away with it with that "wow, I actually understood that!" look:

"Newfoundland is, or was, full of interesting people.
Like Larry, who would make a fool of himself on street corners
for a nickel. There was the Russian who called himself
the Grand Duke, and who was said to be a real duke from somewhere,
and the woman who frequently accompanied him on his rounds.
Doc Hanks, the sawbones, was a real good surgeon
when he wasn't completely drunk, which was most of the time.
When only half drunk he could perform decent cranial surgery.
There was the blind man who never said anything
but produced spectral sounds on a musical saw.
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