Carcanet Press Logo
Quote of the Day
It is impossible to imagine literary life in Britain without Carcanet.
William Boyd

Notes from the Air

Selected Later Poems

John Ashbery

Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems by John Ashbery
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, American
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (320 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2007)
Out of Stock
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Try to avoid the pattern that has been avoided,
    the avoidance pattern It's not as easy as it looks:
    The herringbone is floating eagerly up
    from the herring to become parquet. Or whatever suits it.
    New fractals clamor to be identical
    to their sisters. Half of them succeed. The others
    go on to the Provencal floral prints some sleepy but ingenious
    weaver created halfway through the eighteenth century,
    and they never came to life until now.

    It's like practicing a scale: at once different and never the same.
    Ask not why we do these things. Ask why we find them meaningful.
    Ask the cuckoo transfixed in mid-flight
    between the pagoda and the hermit's rococo cave. He may tell you.

             'Sonnet: More of Same'
    In Notes from the Air John Ashbery selects his very best work from ten major collections, starting with the acclaimed April Galleons of 1988, and ending with Where Shall I Wander of 2005. This selection of Ashbery's later poetry is the sequel to The Mooring of Starting Out (1997), which brought together his first five volumes.

    Ashbery has long been one of America's best-loved poets and always its most inventive. In Notes from the Air discloses the variety and wry power of his vision of language and of life. The poet has taken stock of where he has been, finding unexpected connections and continuities.

    Acknowledgments           xv


                 Vetiver  3

                 Riddle Me             5

                 A Mood of Quiet Beauty 7

                 Finnish Rhapsody          8

                 Alone in the Lumber Business          11

                 Vaucanson           13

                 Someone You Have Seen Before  15

                 Ostensibly           17

                 Becalmed on Strange Waters             19

                 The Big Cloud   20

                 Some Money             22

                 Wet Are the Boards       23

                 Offshore Breeze  25

                 The Ice Storm   26

                 April Galleons           30


                 Section V             35


                 Light Turnouts         65

                 Autumn Telegram          66

                 Notes from the Air     67

                 Still Life with Stranger  69

                 Hotel Lautréamont    70

                 On the Empress’s Mind             73

                 The Phantom Agents             74

                 From Estuaries, from Casinos            75

                 Autumn on the Thruway             78

                 The Little Black Dress     84

                 Avant de quitterces lieux             85

                 In Another Time 87

                 Le mensonge deNina Petrovna 88

                 Korean Soap Opera     90

                 A Driftwood Altar 93

                 The Youth’s Magic Horn    96

                 Seasonal             98

                 Kamarinskaya       99

                 Elephant Visitors          101

                 Retablo             102

                 Quartet             104

                 [untitled]             107

                 Just Wednesday  108

                 In My Way / On My Way     110

                 No Good at Names        113

                 In Vain, Therefore       115

                 A Hole in Your Sock      116

                 How to Continue        117


                 Token Resistance     121

                 The Mandrill on the Turnpike        122

                 About to Move   123

                 Ghost Riders of the Moon  125

                 The Love Scenes 126

                 Well, Yes, Actually         127

                 Myrtle 129

                 Mutt and Jeff       130

                 Coventry             132

                 And the Stars Were Shining          134

    from CAN YOU HEAR, BIRD (1995)

                 A Poem of Unrest 157

                 A Waking Dream  158

                 At First I Thought I Wouldn’t Say Anything About It           159

                 . . . by an Earthquake    160

                 By Guess and by Gosh 164

                 Can You Hear, Bird      165

                 Cantilever             166

                 Chapter II, Book 35          167

                 Dangerous Moonlight  169

                 Debit Night   171

                 Dull Mauve 173

                 My Philosophy of Life       174

                 No Longer Very Clear             176

                 Operators Are Standing By             177

                 Plain as Day      178

                 Sleepers Awake 180

                 The Faint of Heart          181

                 The Green Mummies       183

                 The Military Base 184

                 The Problem of Anxiety          185

                 Today’s Academicians 186

                 from TuesdayEvening             187

                 Yes, Dr. Grenzmer. How May I Be of Assistance to 195

                 You? What! You Say the Patient Has Escaped?

                 You Would Have Thought        198


                 Wakefulness       201

                 Baltimore             203

                 Cousin Sarah’s Knitting             204

                 Last Night I Dreamed I Was in Bucharest  206

                 Added Poignancy     207

                 Laughing Gravy   209

                 From Such Commotion             210

                 Alive at Every Passage 212

                 The Burden of the Park      213

                 Dear Sir or Madam           216

                 Discordant Data   217

                 Outside My Window the Japanese . . .  219

                 Probably Based on a Dream             221

                 Proximity             222

                 Like America         223

                 Snow 224

                 The Dong with the Luminous Nose             226

                 Come On, Dear     228

                 Homecoming         230


                 Sections I, II, III, VIII, IX, XXI      233


                 This Room   249

                 If You Said You Would Come with Me 250

                 A Linnet             251

                 The Bobinski Brothers             252

                 Merrily We Live         253

                 Caravaggio and His Followers       255

                 Industrial Collage           257

                 The History of My Life       259

                 Memories of Imperialism 260

                 Heartache             262

                 Redeemed Area     264

                 They Don’t Just Go Away, Either 266

                 Sonatine Mélancolique 268

                 Stanzas before Time   270

                 A Suit 271

                 Crossroads in the Past  272

                 How Dangerous    273

                 Lemurs and Pharisees 274

                 The Underwriters 276

                 Vendanges           278

                 Has to Be Somewhere    280

                 Strange Cinema           282

                 Fade In             283

                 Pastilles for the Voyage             284

                 Your Name Here     285


                 A Nice Presentation  289

                 Disagreeable Glimpses  290

                 Theme Park Days      292

                 From the Diary of a Mole             293

                 Mordred             294

                 The Lightning Conductor     296

                 I Asked Mr. Dithers Whether It Was Time Yet He Said Noto Wait    298

                 Chinese Whispers       299

                 In the Time of Pussy Willows         302

                 Little Sick Poem    304

                 Local Legend           305

                 Portrait with a Goat    306

                 As Umbrellas Follow Rain     307

                 Oh Evenings       313

                 Runway             314

                 Her Cardboard Lover             315

                 The Haves  316

                 Like Air, Almost           319

                 The Blessed Way Out             321

                 The Business of Falling Asleep (2)             322

                 Sir Gammer Vans 324


                 Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse 329

                 Days of Reckoning     330

                 Coma Berenices       332

                 The New Higher 336

                 Interesting People of Newfoundland             337

                 Retro 339

                 Annuals and Perennials 341

                 Heavy Home   342

                 The Template        343

                 The Snow-Stained Petals Aren’t Pretty Any More             344

                 Sonnet: More of Same 345

                 The Love Interest          346

                 Composition         347

                 Where Shall I Wander             348

    Index of Titles andFirst Lines             353


    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
Share this...
The Carcanet Blog PN Review 266: Editorial read more Ian Pople: Spillway: New and Selected Poems read more Peter Sansom: Lanyard read more PN Review 265: Under the Cover with Gregory O'Brien read more PN Review 265: Editorial read more Patrick Worsnip: On Translating Saba read more
Find your local bookshop logo
Arts Council Logo
We thank the Arts Council England for their support and assistance in this interactive Project.
This website ©2000-2022 Carcanet Press Ltd