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Selected Prose

John Ashbery

Edited by Eugene Richie

Cover Picture of Selected Prose
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, American, Art
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (300 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2004)
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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. 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)
    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
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