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John Ashbery

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  • John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York in 1927. He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and went to France as a Fulbright Scholar in 1955, living there for much of the next decade. His most recent book of poetry is Commotion of the Birds, (2016). Other collections include Breezeway (2015), Quick Question (2012), Planisphere (2009) and Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (2007), which was awarded the 2008 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. A two-volume set of his collected translations from the French (poetry and prose) was published in 2014. 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 exhibits his collages at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery (New York). He taught for many years at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and Bard College, and in 1989-90 delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (receiving its Gold Medal for Poetry in 1997) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1988 to 1999. The winner of many prizes and awards, both nationally and internationally, he has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was a MacArthur Fellow from 1985 to 1990; recently, he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation (2011) and a National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama at the White House (2012). His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He lives in New York. Additional information is available in the “About John Ashbery” section of the Ashbery Resource Center’s website, a project of The Flow Chart Foundation, www.flowchartfoundation.org/arc.
       'Praised as a magical genius, cursed as an obscure joker, John Ashbery writes poetry like no one else.'
    The Independent
      'Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood: Ashbery communicates in a way that both pays homage to language and transcends it at the same time.'
    The Guardian
      'John Ashbery's Collected Poems 1956-1987, edited by Mark Ford (Carcanet), was a book I found inexhaustible. Possibly the greatest living English-speaking poet and one of the most prolific, Ashbery takes language to its limits, so that words serve as pointers to shifting experiences that elude description. Containing his masterpiece 'Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror', one of the most penetrating 20th-century meditations on what it means to be human, this collection succeeded in stirring my thoughts as well as delighting me.'
    John Gray The Guardian Books Of The Year 2010
       'Notoriously hard to characterise, Ashbery's poetry has been likened to many things - a spiritual experience or an animated cartoon ... No poet's lines are more accommodating to other voices and idioms ... Like restless guests, his subjects arrive and mingle, don unlikely disguises and abruptly announce they are "off on some expedition"...Such poise lends authority to his "positive melancholy," makes even his excesses ... masterly, and ensures that The Ashbery remains the destination of choice, the place "where everything gets unravelled just right."'
    Julian Loose, Book and Poetry Review section, The Guardian, 3 November, 1992
    Awards won by John Ashbery Winner, 1997  Gold Medal for Poetry Winner, 2001 Wallace Stevens Award Winner, 1995 Robert Frost Medal Winner, 1976 National Book Critics Circle Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 National Book Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 Pulitzer Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror)
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