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The New York Poets: an anthology

John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler

Edited by Mark Ford

Cover Picture of The New York Poets: an anthology
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Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, American, Anthologies
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (224 pages)
(Pub. Mar 2004)
£14.95 £13.45
Digital access available through Exact Editions
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Authors
  • Contents
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Audio
  • "They Dream Only Of America"

    They dream only of America
    To be lost among the thirteen million pillars of grass:
    "This honey is delicious
    Though it burns the throat."

    And hiding from darkness in barns
    They can be grownups now
    And the murderer's ash tray is more easily--
    The lake a lilac cube.

    He holds a key in his right hand.
    "Please," he asked willingly.
    He is thirty years old.
    That was before

    We could drive hundreds of miles
    At night through dandelions.
    When his headache grew worse we
    Stopped at a wire filling station.

    Now he cared only about signs.
    Was the cigar a sign?
    And what about the key?
    He went slowly into the bedroom.

    "I would not have broken my leg if I had not fallen
    Against the living room table. What is it to be back
    Beside the bed? There is nothing to do
    For our liberation, except wait in the horror of it.

    And I am lost without you."

    John Ashbery

    For the first time, The New York Poets gathers in a single volume the best work of four extraordinary poets: Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. By the early 1950s all four were settled in Manhattan, collaborating, competing and encouraging each other's radical experiments with language and form. Much of their work reflects their participation in the creative energies of the New York art scene, 'the floods of paint', to quote James Schuyler, 'in whose crashing surf we all scramble'. Believing that anything could be material for a poem, they transformed American poetry with their irreverent wit and daring.

    Mark Ford's anthology is an essential introduction to four poets whose work has influenced poetry around the world. It includes detailed background information and a substantial bibliography.
    Table of Contents

    Introduction - Mark Ford

    Select Bibliography

    Frank O'Hara

    Autobiographia Literaria

    Poem (At night Chinamen jump)

    Poem (The eager note on my door said "Call me/)

    Memorial Day 1950

    A Pleasant Thought from Whitehead



    Meditations in an Emergency


    Poem (There I could never be a boy,)

    To the Harbormaster

    At the Old Place

    My Heart

    To the Film Industry in Crisis


    In Memory of My Feelings

    A Step Away from Them

    Why I Am Not a Painter

    Poem Read at Joan Mitchell's


    A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island

    To Gottfried Benn

    The Day Lady Died

    Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul

    Joe's Jacket

    You Are Gorgeous and I'm Coming

    Poem (Khrushchev is coming on the right day!)

    Getting Up Ahead of Someone (Sun)


    Ave Maria

    Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)

    First Dances


    John Ashbery

    The Picture of Little J.A. in a Prospect of Flowers

    Some Trees

    The Painter

    "They Dream Only of America"

    A Last World

    These Lacustrine Cities

    from The Skaters

    Soonest Mended

    Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape

    Definition of Blue

    The One Thing That Can Save America

    City Afternoon

    Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

    Street Musicians


    Wet Casements

    Daffy Duck in Hollywood

    As We Know

    At North Farm

    A Driftwood Altar

    The History of My Life

    Kenneth Koch

    Fresh Air

    You Were Wearing

    Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

    The Circus


    The Simplicity of the Unknown Past

    To Marina

    Days and Nights

    1. The Invention of Poetry

    2. The Stones of Time

    3. The Secret

    4. Out and In

    5. Days and Nights

    One Train May Hide Another

    A Time Zone

    James Schuyler


    May 24th or so

    Buried at Springs

    Empathy and New Year

    An East Window on Elizabeth Street

    A Gray Thought

    To Frank O'Hara



    The Bluet

    Hymn to Life

    June 30,1974

    Korean Mums

    Wystan Auden

    Dining Out With Doug and Frank

    The Payne Whitney Poems


    We Walk



    Heather and Calendulas



    February 13,1975




    The Snowdrop

    En Route to Southampton

    Faure's Second Piano Quartet

    Index of First Lines

    Index of Titles

    John Ashbery
    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
    Kenneth Koch
    Kenneth Koch is grouped with John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler, a grouping which tends to underplay the real differences between each poet's projects; their collaborations were inventive because of their differences, not their similarities, and what marks all four is the ability to work at tangents without ... read more
    Frank O'Hara
    Frank O’Hara was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1926, and grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts. He served in the US navy (1944-46) in the South Pacific, and attended the universities of Harvard and Michigan. In 1951 O’Hara settled in Manhattan, and soon became a central figure in a number of the ... read more
    James Schuyler
    James Schuyler was born in Chicago on 9 November 1923. He attended Bethany College of West Virginia from 1941 to 1943. In the late 40s he moved to New York City where he worked for NBC and befriended W. H. Auden. He later moved to Italy, where he lived in Auden's ... read more
    Mark Ford
    Mark Ford was born in 1962. His publications include two collections of poetry, Landlocked (Chatto & Windus 1991, 1998) and Soft Sift (Faber & Faber 2001, Harcourt Brace 2003); a critical biography of the French poet, playwright and novelist Raymond Roussel ( Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams, Faber ... 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 'That Ashbery had these several extended works underway simultaneously testifies not only to his unflagging fealty to the form but also to his extravagantly various powers of invention and intelligence... Even as the references that undergird these projects range from the reassuringly familiar to the dauntingly obscure, as is typical with Ashbery, they characterize a rarefied mental atmosphere, one in which the poet's droll self-awareness deflates what otherwise might be pretension... Ashbery recognized the porous border between decision and delusion, between finality and its seeming appearance. This collection of unfinished works allows readers to tread that border as well.'

    Albert Mobilio, Poetry

    'This is an exciting missing piece of the jigsaw for Ashbery enthusiasts. Here language fizzes with a vital "off-kilter quality" and an Ashberian state of open-ended possibility.'

    The Poetry Book Society Summer Bulletin

    '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
    '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
    Praise for Frank O'Hara '... a remarkable new poetry - both modest and monumental, with something basically usable about it - not only for poets in search of a voice of their own but for the reader who turns to poetry as a last resort in trying to juggle the contradictory components of modern life into something like a liveable space.'
    John Ashbery
    'O'Hara's hip, glamorous, freewheeling self-celebrations both reflected and helped disseminate a new kind of confidence and daring in American poetry.' Mark Ford
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