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A Wave: Poems Paperback – March 18, 1998

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Paperback, March 18, 1998
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Editorial Reviews


"'Recklessness,' John Ashbery once observed, 'is what makes experimental art beautiful.' Ashbery . . . might have had his own formidably original poetry in mind, for a policy of calculated recklessness is central to his artistry. Ashbery's latest collection characteristically throws caution to the winds in pursuit of things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. The results are exhilarating. To top it off, the 21-page title poem is easily Ashbery's finest single achievement since Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won the Pulitzer Prize and vaulted him into national prominence. Ashbery's poems defy paraphrase. . . . Some of Ashbery's more solemn explicators miss--or undervalue--the strong element of humor in his work. There's a streak of sublime silliness in [A Wave]."--David Lehman, Newsweek

"The charm of Ashbery's urbane style--so various, so beautiful, so new--persists throughout A Wave, and will induce the rereadings the poems demand. It is a style that resists, in its glowing reflectiveness, the approaching darkness of the cimmerian moment."--Helen Vendler, The New York Review of Books

"In his eleventh major collection and especially in its long title poem, [Ashbery] has placed the vast prose vistas of Three Poems within the lyric measures he realized most explicitly in Houseboat Days. In retrospect, it seems an inevitable triumph; and the trio of Three Poems, Houseboat Days, and A Wave will probably be seen by his audience as the indispensable core of Ashbery's work."--Douglas Crase, The Nation

"Splendidly diverse . . . [a] superb and heartbreaking collection."--David St. John, The Washington Post Book World

About the Author

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927 and educated at Harvard and Columbia. He is Charles P. Stevenson Jr., Professor of Language and Literature at Bard College and lives in New York City and Hudson, New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525477
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,897,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
John Ashbery, A Wave (Viking, 1985)
[originally posted 2Nov2001]

If you believe back-cover blurbs, it seems like every major poet in America is firmly convinced that John Ashbery is not only one of America's premier poets, but at the top of that heap. Ashbery IS quite the distinguished writer on art, and so perhaps others are willing to cut his cross-pollination a bit of slack based on that. Wrongheaded as it may be, I'm not one of them.

There are, in a reductio ad absurdum way, two basic schools of thought on poetry: the lyric and the narrative. The narrative is convinced that a poem should tell a story, and that how it sounds is less important than that; the lyric is convinced of the opposite, that sound is all-important and meaning is, well, meaningless. Optimists have been trying to bring the two together for years, and have created two more schools of thought. The combination of narrative and lyric (in other words, it sounds good AND tells a story) is an exceptionally rare and beautiful thing, achieved by a handful of luminaries such as Hayden Carruth and Robert Lowell; far more populous are those who end up with stuff that doesn't say much and doesn't sound good. Of these, it is possible, Ashbery is king. One wag, in an Ode to Ashbery published on the net, opens with these lines:

"He said nothing. For a man of so many words
Nothing wasn't much to say
And what's more it wasn't kind of him
To say so much before saying nothing to me."


Of course, Ashbery's won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the national Book Critics Circle Award, and (for A Wave) the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, so what do I know?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very approachable poetry
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