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ISBN: 978 0 856355 47 9
Categories: 20th Century, American
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: January 1988
216 x 135 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
'Rain Moving In'
The blackboard is erased in the attic
And the wind turns up the light of the stars,
Sinewy now. Someone will find out, someone will know.
And if somewhere on this great planet
The truth is discovered, a patch of it, dried, glazed by the sun,
It will just hang on, in its own infamy, humility. No one
Will be better for it, but things can't get any worse.
Just keep playing, mastering as you do the step
Into disorder this one meant. Don't you see
It's all we can do? Meanwhile, great fires
Arise, as of haystacks aflame. The dial has been set
And that's ominous, but all your graciousness in living
Conspires with it, now that this is our home:
A place to be from, and have people ask about.
Over forty new poems in verse and prose make up 'A Wave', John Ashbery's tenth collection. The title poem is a twenty-page meditation on change, loss and adjustment; it is a major poem that takes place alongside 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror'and 'Litany' as a challenging masterwork of modern American poetry.
John Ashbery describes the way in which the rhythm of childhood memories permeates the verse of his long poem,'A Wave':
"Waves have always been somehow embedded in my mind because I spent a great deal of my childhood on the edge of one of the great lakes, Lake Ontario, where my grandparents lived. They're not as big as the ones on the ocean but they do get to be pretty big and you hear them all day long, and their rhythm is something that has always been with me and keeps erupting in the poetry."
(talking to David Sexton, The Sunday Times, 16th June 1983)
John Ashbery was born in New York in 1927. He is an art critic as well as a poet. He teaches at the City University of New York.
Praise for John Ashbery '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 'The language of [John Ashbery's] books is informed by his roving enthusiasms for particular composers. His tastes are both eclectic and out-of-the-way.'- Michael Glover, 'A blue rinse for the language,' The Independent, 13 November, 1999 'The careering, centrifugal side of Girls on the Run is one of its most effective tools in creating its special ainbience of good-humoured menace ... Ashbery has made the slush of signification, the realm where words slip, slide, perish and decay, uniquely his own.' - David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement, 30 June, 2000 'In his seventies John Ashbery offers a sprightly and energetic alternative. Instead of being sluggish he demands that the self must be even more alert, more vigilant, more attentive to the world around it, not indifferent to and weary of it. Alert, vigilant, attentive ... Wakefulness, the brilliantly evocative title of Ashbery's collection.' - Stephen Matterson, 'The Capacious Art of Poetry,' Poetry Ireland Review 62, 114 'Harold Bloom regards [John Ashbery] as something akin to a genius...' - Michael Glover, 'The poet as frustrated composer,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Independent, 14 August, 1998 '...Ashbery is still exuberantly dedicated to the truthful rendering of experience as a flow of sensations that defy interpretation. Consciousness is not so much a stream as a series of jump-cuts from one haunting or zany impression to the next. His best poems have a weirdly, intriguingly satisfying quality.' - Alan Brownjohn, 'Creating a sensation,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Sunday Times, 10 January, 1999
'Stemming in part from Mallarme and in part from Whitman, Ashbery's work creates a tension in which the fine networks of linguistic reverie are balanced by the strong sense of American tradition.'- Peter Ackroyd, 'Books of the Year,' The Times Literary Supplement, 4 December, 1992 '...an Ashbery [poem] does not stand on its own but floats off into the reader's limitless consciousness like a balloon. Balloons can be very beautiful, inspire longing and also make you smile.'- Grey Gowrie, 'Where the commonplace is wonderful,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Daily Telegraph, 5 October, 1996 'John Ashbery's distinctiveness as a poet paradoxically resides in his ability to evade all single identities; like Whitman, he feels most fully himself when he contains multitudes ... [Ashbery] deploys a staggering variety of dictions, ranging from fragments of novelettish narratives to lyrical dream-visions, from the cliché of public speech to scraps of surrealist collage...'- Mark Ford, 'Free-wheeling towards the abyss,' Times Literary Supplement, 27 December, 1991 '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 'The Mooring of Starting Out is filled with illustrations glimpsed through luminous, funny, formidably intelligent and often heartbreaking poems.'- Andrew Zawacki, 'A wave of music,' Times Literary Supplement, 12 June, 1998 'John Ashbery is probably the most highly regarded living poet in America ... The "story" element in Ashbery comes over in fragmented and non-consequential ways, but the fragments have a strong power of visual evocation, and a startling precision of outline ... His focus is on a bravura artifice, a depersonalised surface crackling with "possibility," a brilliant randomness in which analogy with Action Painting asserts itself with special force...'- Claude Rawson, 'A poet in the postmodern playground,' Times Literary Supplement, 4 July, 1986
"John Ashbery's A Wave expresses with painful recognisability the apartness, impermanence and incoherence of individual existence today, and yet produces exuberant script for survival." read more
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