Collected Poems 1956–1987
Some Trees • The Tennis Court Oath • Rivers and Mountains • The Double Dream of Spring • Three Poems • The Vermont Notebook • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror • Houseboat Days • As We Know • Shadow Train • A Wave • April Galleons • uncollected poems
"This major book, the first collection from The Library of America by a living poet, offers a view of Ashbery's artistic development over many decades.... He is, according to both his admirers and his critics, the towering figuring in contemporary American poetry."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read an exclusive interview with John Ashbery (PDF, 91 KB)
With this volume The Library of America inaugurates a collected edition of the works of America’s preeminent living poet. Long associated with the New York School that came to the fore in the 1950s, John Ashbery has charted a profoundly original course that has opened up pathways for subsequent generations of poets. At once hermetic and exuberantly curious, meditative and unnervingly funny, dreamlike and steeped in everyday realities, alive to every nuance of American speech, these are poems that constantly discover new worlds within language and its unexpected permutations.
As the poet David Shapiro has written, “The poems of Ashbery may seem so open that they become, like Hamlet, that rare inexhaustible thing, the irreducible fact of great art.” This first volume of the collected Ashbery includes the texts of his first twelve books: Some Trees (1956), selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets; The Tennis Court Oath (1962); Rivers and Mountains (1966); The Double Dream of Spring (1970); Three Poems (1972), saluted by John Hollander as “a meditational masterpiece”; The Vermont Notebook (1975), presented with the original art by Joe Brainard; Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976); Houseboat Days (1977); As We Know (1979); Shadow Train (1981); A Wave (1984); and April Galleons (1987). In addition it presents an unprecedented gathering of more than 60 previously uncollected poems written over a period of four decades.
To read Ashbery’s work in sequence is to marvel at his refusal to rest on what has already been accomplished, his insistence on constantly renewed modes of expression. It is to become aware as well of the way his poetry chronicles life as really lived—“the way things have of enfolding / When your attention is distracted for a moment”—amid the surfaces of the quotidian (waking, dreamt, imagined, remembered) and the equally pervasive, equally elusive and deceptive surfaces of language. Through all his metamorphoses he has continued to work with incomparable freedom and humor: Ashbery (in the words of James Longenbach) “is constitutionally incapable of narrowing the possibilities for poetry.”
Mark Ford, volume editor, is the author of two acclaimed collections of poetry, Landlocked and Soft Sift, and the critical study Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams. His book-length interview with John Ashbery, John Ashbery in Conversation with Mark Ford, was published in 2003. He contributes regularly to the Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, and The New York Review of Books, and is currently a senior lecturer at University College London.
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