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John Ashbery: Collected Poems, 1956-1987 (Library of America, No. 187) Hardcover – October 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The first half of a projected two-volume set, this major book, the first collection from Library of America by a living poet, offers a view of Ashbery's artistic development over many decades. Ashbery, now 80, is celebrated for his varied, often elliptical style, which, though verging on the incomprehensible at times, has consistently delighted readers and critics. This volume contains all of Ashbery's books up through 1987's April Galleons; it begins with the Yale Younger Poets Prize–winning Some Trees (1956), chosen by Auden, and includes Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), which won all three major American book awards. Other notable inclusions are the complete text of The Vermont Notebook, with illustrations by Joe Brainard, and an ample group of uncollected poems. Watching Ashbery's art grow from the slippery romanticism and verbal hijinks of the early poems through the philosophical, if sideways, inquiry of the '70s, to the chattier, colloquial period inaugurated in the early '80s, is arresting. Though Ashbery has confounded and inspired in seemingly equal measure, he is, according to both his admirers and critics, the towering figure in contemporary American poetry. This volume follows on the heels of this past April's Notes from the Air: Collected Later Poems. (Oct).
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Review

aSince the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955, we have been in the Age of Ashbery.a
aHarold Bloom

Since the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955, we have been in the Age of Ashbery.
Harold Bloom

?Since the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955, we have been in the Age of Ashbery.?
?Harold Bloom

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1050 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; 1st edition (October 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530285
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
John Ashbery (b. 1927) has achieved a unique status among American poets. Even though much of his work is difficult to read, avant-garde, and post-modernist in character, Ashbery has become revered and beloved by many readers. For all the obscurity of his writing, his poetry is tantalizing and inspiring. It properly draws many people into its orbit. Even those who dislike Ashbery's poetry acknowledge its force and importance.

Ashbery's stature is demonstrated by, among many other ways, this volume of his Collected Poems from 1956 -- 1987 in the Library of America (LOA) series. Ashbery is the first living poet to be honored with a complete volume in the LOA. A second projected LOA volume will cover Ashbery's poetry subsequent to 1987. The Library of America was founded in 1979 to preserve the best of American writing in uniform, accessible editions. It is a series that celebrates America in poetry, history, fiction, philosophy, travel writing, journalism, and more. Ashbery richly deserves his place in it. Ashbery was born in 1927 and was raised in upstate New York. He attended Harvard and Columbia and lived for ten years (1955 -- 1965) in Paris.

This volume consists of over 450 poems. It includes the twelve books Ashbery published between 1956 ("Some Trees") and 1987 ("April Galleons") together with over 60 uncollected poems. Ashbery's first book, "Some Trees" received the Yale Younger Poets Prize. It was romantic in character and made much more use of formal verse forms than did his subsequent work. For example, an excellent early poem in the volume, "The Painter" is written in the highly traditional and formal poetic form called a sestina.
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Much has been said of Ashbery's very particular stasis in American poetry: A poet that can unite Harold Bloom and Charles Bernstein in praise as well as unite equally disparate schools of thought in frustration. This is an excellent overview of his early work, although it does miss some of has particularly excellent poetry in the last two-and-a-half decades. The Library of America collection does Ashbery's work a profound service by making it the first work of a living (and still working poet) to be released by them. Even though this does not cover the later 1/4 of his career, the over 450 poems do give one much to enjoy: his early more formal work, "Some Trees" and "The Painter," hint at his more avant-garde moves later on. After those two books, while Ashbery is formally complicated, his rarely ever works in traditional forms or rhymes. Included is one of the most highly regarded of Ashbery's work, 1976's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," which often serves as an introduction to Ashbery. While not necessarily my favorite work, it is a solid introduction to what Ashbery's poetics are and the fugue states one goes through reading it. In addition, despite the someone obscure topic (Parmigianino ) and the length of the poems, it is one of Ashbery's more accessible post-formal works.

My two favorites within this volume are the ""Houseboat Days," which hit at the more relaxed and free-flowing later poetry including those collections released after the purview of this book, and "The Tennis Court Oath," which is about Ashbery's days in Paris and contain what many see as his most challenging work. Overall, this is an excellent way into the work of John Ashbery and is to be savored.
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Format: Hardcover
John Ashbery is America's greatest living poet. His rejection for the Nobel Prize (so far) is one of Stockholm's major crimes.

However, if you are to appreciate him, you must forget trying to make conventional "sense" out of his writing. Instead, try to let the loosely connected or disconnected scenes, images, etc. wash over you and form their own connections, to create in your mind a new world of poetic reality.
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I've got a couple of Ashbery poetry books around and I tried to like him, especially when some organic farmer girl, Bard grd., opened a stand at our market. I've returned to him now some ten years later with this collection - since he is one of those half dozen or so frequently referred to as our greatest poet, I bought it- and it's been a wonderful discovery. My farmer tells me he wasn't so funny in class, but I think that's one of the best part of the poems. I certainly can see a lot of his style, the open form, in the generation of younger poets. At the same time I've been rereading some Pound and can see a lot coming together here.

Ashbery's own selection from this time period (up to '87) is available, paperback, for less. That's nice, the poet's own selection tells you something; but this volume is everything he wrote in till then including uncollected material, a very detailed chronolgy of his life, 23 pages of notes on the poems and it is in the agreeable Library of America format.

America has produced an uncanny amount of great poetry for some reason, and this fellow will be in the inner circle. $27? Go for it.

....Returning after a few mos more reading, it's become a favorite. If you find the poems that are easy, use a bookmark (never write in a book) then branch out...like Tom Waits tunes...
I read in the NYBR review of this book a few weeks ago that Ashbery has said he would be horrified if he thought that folks were just browsing thru his poetry stoned!
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