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Selected Prose

John Ashbery

Edited by Eugene Richie

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ISBN: 978 1 857547 57 3
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, American, Art
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Published: November 2004
216 x 135 x 10 mm
300 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • John Ashbery has been called 'the finest poet in English of his generation' (The Times). A broad selection of Ashbery's prose writings from 1957 to 2004 is collected here for the first time. Literary reviews and essays, articles on film, and key pieces of art criticism, some never before published, reveal a critical intelligence that has had a profound impact on the cultural landscape of the past half-century. His reviews of Gertrude Stein's Stanzas in Meditation and of de Chirico's Hebdomeros, as well as his essays on Raymond Roussel, are contemporary classics. Less familiar, but equally illuminating, are his discussions of Antonin Artaud, Jacques Rivette, Marianne Moore and Robert Mapplethorpe.

    This collection of Ashbery's critical writings dramatically expands the terrain covered by his first two books of essays, Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987 (Carcanet 1990) and Other Traditions (first presented as the Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1990).

    Eugene Richie's introduction explores the cultural context of these writings, demonstrating not only their significance for Ashbery's poetic development, but their importance in the shaping of literature and the arts in the twenty-first century.
    Table of Contents

    An Introductory Note by John Ashbery

    Introduction by Eugene Richie

    (Dates below are of presentation or of earliest publication.)

    Gertrude Stein. The Impossible (July 1957)

    Michel Butor. Review of La Modification (October 1958)

    Pierre Reverdy. A Note on Pierre Reverdy (January/February 1960)

    Antonin Artaud. Antonin Artaud: Poet, Actor, Director, Playwright (1960)

    Raymond Roussel. On Raymond Roussel (1962)

    Raymond Roussel. Introduction to "In Havana" (1962)

    John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch (A Conversation) (Summer 1964)

    Jasper Johns. Brooms and Prisms (March 1966)

    Philip Booth, Stanley Moss, and Adrienne Rich. Tradition and Talent (September 4, 1966)

    Frank O'Hara. Frank O'Hara, 1926-1966 (September 1966)

    Frank O'Hara. Writers and Issues: Frank O'Hara's Question (September 25, 1966)

    Marianne Moore. Jerboas, Pelicans, and Peewee Reese (October 30, 1966)

    Giorgio de Chirico. The Decline of the Verbs (December 18, 1966)

    Robert Duncan. Introduction to a Reading (1967)

    Jane Bowles. Up from the Underground (January 29, 1967)

    Alfred Chester. Chester's Sweet Freaks (March 12, 1967)

    Jorge Luis Borges. A Game with Shifting Mirrors (April 16, 1967)

    Witold Gombrowicz. Ecrivain Maudit (July 9, 1967)

    Marianne Moore. Straight Lines Over Rough Terrain (November 26, 1967)

    The New York School of Poets (March 5, 1968)

    Lee Harwood. Comment on The White Room (1968)

    Ted Berrigan. Review of The Sonnets (1968)

    Elizabeth Bishop. Throughout Is This Quality of Thingness (June 1, 1969)

    Italo Calvino. Further Adventures of Qfwfq, et. al. (October 12, 1969)

    Frank O'Hara. Introduction to The Collected Poems (1971)

    Louisa Matthiasdottir. North Light (1972)

    A. R. Ammons and John Wheelwright. In the American Grain (February 22, 1973)

    Jacques Rivette. Rivette Masterpiece(S?) (October 24, 1974)

    E.V. Lucas and George Morrow. Introduction to What a Life! (1975)

    Kenward Elmslie. The Figure in the Carport (Fall/Winter 1977).

    Elizabeth Bishop. Second Presentation of Elizabeth Bishop (Winter 1977)

    Frank O'Hara. A Reminiscence (1978)

    David Schubert. Schubert's Unfinished (March 8, 1983)

    F. T. Prince. On the Poetry of F. T. Prince (1983)

    Fairfield Porter. Introduction to The Collected Poems with Selected Drawings (1985)

    Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. Introduction to Fantômas (1986)

    Nicholas Moore. Featured Poet (February 1986)

    Raymond Roussel. An Unpublished Note (1987)

    A Note on "Variation on a Noel" (1987)

    Gertrude Stein. Foreword to The Third Rose: Gertrude Stein and Her World (1987)

    Introduction to The Best American Poetry (1988)

    James Schuyler. Introduction to a Reading (November 15, 1988)

    Poetical Space (May 19, 1989)

    Michael Palmer and James Tate. Introduction to a Reading (April 11, 1991)

    Raymond Roussel. Introduction to Documents to Serve as an Outline (1991)

    Gerrit Henry. Introduction to The Mirrored Clubs of Hell (1991)

    Mary Butts. Preface to From Altar to Chimney-Piece (1992)

    Mark Ford. Review of Landlocked (1992)

    Pierre Martory. Introduction to The Landscape Is Behind the Door (1994)

    Robert Creeley and Charles Tomlinson. Introduction to a Reading (April 25, 1995)

    Robert Frost Medal Address (April 28, 1995)

    Robert Mapplethorpe. Introduction to Pistils (1996)

    Joe Brainard. Introduction to Joe Brainard: Retrospective (1997)

    Trevor Winkfield. Introduction to Trevor Winkfield's Pageant (1997)

    Frederic Church. Frederic Church at Olana: An Artist's Fantasy on the Hudson River (June 1997)

    Charles North. Introduction to a Reading (April 16, 1998)

    Pierre Martory. Obituary (November 18, 1998)

    Raymond Roussel. Foreword to Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (2000)

    Lynn Davis. Introduction to Exhibition Catalogue (2001)

    Jane Freilicher. View Over Mecox (Yellow Wall) (2001)

    James Schuyler. Introduction to Alfred and Guinevere (2001)

    Tony Towle. Introduction to a Reading (November 8, 2001)

    Larry Rivers. Larry Rivers Was Dying. He Asked to See Friends (August 25, 2002)

    Rudy Burckhardt. New York? Mais Oui! (2003)

    Mark Ford. Foreword to Soft Sift (2003)

    Paul Killebrew. Preface to Forget Rita (2003)

    Joan Murray. On the poetry of Joan Murray (October/November 2003)

    Val Lewton. The Seventh Victim (Autumn 2003)

    F. T. Prince. On "The Moonflower" (2004)

    John Ashbery
    John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. He has published more than twenty collections of poetry, beginning in 1953 with Turandot and Other Poems.  His art writings are collected in Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957–1987 (Carcanet, 1990) and his literary essays appear in the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, ... read more
    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)
    Praise for John Ashbery 'A fine collection of poems rooted in 21st-century America.'
    Robert McCrum, The Observer
     'More than a century after Arthur Rimbaud composed his Illuminations they are reborn in John Ashbery’s mangnificent translation. It is fitting that the major American poet since Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens should give us this noble version of the precursor of all three.'
    Harold Bloom
    'Quick Question, with the hushed intensity of its music and great lyric beauty, could only be Ashbery.'
    Ian Thomson, Financial Times
    The book invites the reader to poetic gluttony. It serves as a corrective to the monoglot provincialism by which the Anglophone world is still bedevilled.
    Sean O'€™Brien, Independent
     'The lyrics in Breezeway, a new collection by the octogenarian poet John Ashbery are as good as his finest. I especially like the final poem, poignantly reprising the last line of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale', "Do I wake or sleep?"'
    Salley Vickers, The Observer - The New Review, 29.11.2015.
       '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
        ' 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

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