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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror: Poems (Penguin Poets) Paperback – January 1, 1990

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

John Ashberry won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror'. Ashberry reaffirms the poetic powers that have made him such an outstanding figure in contemporary literature. This new book continues his astonishing explorations of places where no one has ever been.

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize winning poet John Ashbery has translated many French writers, including Alfred Jarry, Pierre Reverdy, and Raymond Roussel. In 2011 he was awarded the National Book Foundation s Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Poets
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140586687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140586688
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Miller on March 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Ashbery is probably the most famous and most productive of the Post-Modernists & the New York School of poets. His career has been long and productive. He remains to this day very visible, frequently publishing his poems in the New Yorker. It was, in fact, within the pages of the New Yorker that I first encountered Ashbery in my youth. I hated his work immediately. In fact, it took years for me to discover the incredible beauty and intellectual stimulation within Ashbery's poetry. Over the years I have come to appreciate Ashbery's more recent, or later work most of all. Although I appreciate the greater simplicity of his earlier work, and the great, convoluted anguish of his middle work, it is the vision of his later work that engages me most.

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror belongs primarily to his middle period. It, of course, famously won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. I own this edition of the work and it has held up well with multiple readings, both the actual paperback, and the text. When I initially read this volume I found it strangely troubling and thought-provoking. I felt almost physically anguished as I read it over and over again. When I first encountered it I surrendered nearly a complete month to repeatedly devouring Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. However, in the end I found that it is still not my favorite of his works. Also, I must confess that I found the short poems in the volume much more engaging than the long, title poem.

As a poet, myself, for years I have found endless inspiration within Ashbery's writing (as well as the writing of many others, including the particularly noteworthy Charles Simic). I think for those first approaching Ashbery's work, this is probably the best place to start.
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Format: Paperback
The American poet John Ashbery's (b. 1927) book "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" received extraordinary accolades upon its publication in 1975. The book won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Critics Circle Award. The book, especially the lengthy concluding poem for which it is named, solidified Ashbery's reputation as a major American poet and remains his most widely-read work. The book consists of 35 poems, including the title poem. I am in the midst of reading the Library of America's collection of Ashbery's poems from 1956-1987 and wanted to pause to try to take stock through this important collection.

Ashbery's poetry and this volume resist paraphrase. Each poem includes lines and figures which are indivually striking and often beautiful; but the poems cannot be read discursively. The diction shifts markedly in the poems from the solemn to the profane. There are sudden shifts in person and in tenses. Frequently, lines or sections are clear enough, but a poem as a whole will appear opaque. There is a sense in Ashbery's work of cutting through the tendency to rationalize and to focus on the joy of experience in its diversity. The concreteness and detail of the poem show a love of things in their variety and keen emotional responses. The poems frequently have the sense of an interior monologue or a discussion among friends. For all their difficulty, the poems have a certain lightness of touch. The poetry is urbane and shows great knowledge of art, music, literature, movies, and popular culture. And with reading, some sense of what Ashbery is about becommes clear.

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" was a watershed book for Ashbery because it is somewhat more accessible than his earlier avant-garde books. Yet the difficulties remain.
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Format: Paperback
John Ashbery with "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" redefines American poetry by shattering syntax and "meaning" into a million facets. Even cliches and conversational speech take on the tone of epic poetry in Ashbery's gaze. His indirect mannerism leaves the reader haunted by images that are unique in American writing. Though drawing heavily from modern French poetic technique, Ashbery lives up to Pound's dictum, "...make it new" and Rimbaud's decree that "...one must be absolutely modern." Above all, his portraits of stream-of-consciousness always surprise with their cinematic, sleight-of-hand, air of freshness. Along with Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara, Ashbery remains the ringleader of the New York School of poetry.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great with the exception of the cover of the book. It was different than the posted photo and I went with this seller specifically for the posted cover. Integrity of the book is intact and as described.
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By A Customer on January 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
This collection of poems, especially the title poem, is jarring and bewildering in its swiftness and complexity, and in the crossed-paths of struggle, you will encounter spectacular images and conclusions. The images like "now from the unbuttoned corner moving out" and "recurring wave of arrival" are vividly childlike and nostalgic but also remind me of nothing I have encountered before. Ashberry's images sometimes bang against each other like the organized chaos of bumper cars. If you find yourself lost, keep reading and re-reading, no one needs to point out subtlety. Stick around, the confusion and overlapping delay the release at the end of his movements, which rival T.S. Eliot, in their polite, mythic send-offs.
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