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A Wave

John Ashbery

Cover Picture of A Wave
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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
Paperback
ISBN: 978 0 856355 47 9
Categories: 20th Century, American, LGBTQ+
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: January 1994
220 x 140 x 5 mm
90 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • 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 Rochester, New York, in 1927. His books of poetry include Breezeway ; Quick Question ; Planisphere ; Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems, which was awarded the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize; A Worldly Country ; Where Shall I Wander ; and Self-Portrait in ... 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)
    'I'll keep returning to The Wave, knowing that each time I do, I'll connect with poems, and lines in poems, I haven't noticed before and recconect with those that have resonated already'
    Pam Thompson, The North
    Praise for John Ashbery 'John Ashbery's final collection of poetry disguises itself well as a mid-career high. The energy and modernity of his strange little worlds tell nothing of his age.'
    Stand Magazine


      'More than a century after Arthur Rimbaud composed his Illuminations they are reborn in John Ashbery's magnificent 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
    '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 magnificent 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.
      '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 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
        '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
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