John Ashbery

The Believer Book Award shortlist. Local favorites S P R A W L and The Orange Eats Creeps are included. Melville House is presenting a new thing, The Indie Booksellers Choice Awards. John Ashbery translated Rimbaud’s Illuminations, and that’s coming out in May, and here’s a rad excerpt over at alan’s blog.

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In Which We Read a Few Good Books, Connect Some Dots, and Have Ourselves a Very Fine Time

I enjoyed David Lehman’s Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man so much when I read it in April that I decided to try my luck with another of his several works of nonfiction. I almost picked up Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection, but I’ve been in a gung-ho poetry mood lately, so instead I opted for The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets, a group biography of Frank O’Hara,  James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery. I encountered this Ashbery quip earlier today in the book, and was going to share it as a power quote, but that’s not really in the spirit of Ashbery, besides which now I want to talk about something else, too. Anyway the quote goes like this:

Recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing. We would all believe in God if we knew He existed, but would this be much fun? (p. 39)


Roundup / 75 Comments
May 11th, 2010 / 2:59 pm

If one were going to have a ‘John Ashbery 101’ course, what would be the syllabus? I want to dig, and am not sure where to start, and don’t really just want to pick up the Selected. Flow Chart I recall being compelled by, as well as Three Poems (I believe it was in the McSweeney’s issue that Justin edited that someone talked about a writing assignment from Donald Barthelme being “get a bottle of wine, a copy of Three Poems, and write four pages in an evening.”). Anyway, help?

Take It Easy with Just Two Links for Sunday Morning

The New York Times has Helen Vendler on the new John Ashbery collection, Planisphere.

And The Olive Reader, the blog presence of Harper Perennial, has yours truly on what he wants for Christmas.

And that’s all that is happening in the world today. Good morning!

Web Hype / 8 Comments
December 13th, 2009 / 12:17 pm

Sucks to be a Mushroom: in which we read David Orr’s essay on poetic greatness until our hangover goes away

In this weekend’s NYT books section, David Orr weighs in on the sweat-to-brow question of whether Poetic Greatness is suffering–or has already suffered–its Peak Oil moment.

In October, John Ashbery became the first poet to have an edition of his works released by the Library of America in his own lifetime. That honor says a number of things about the state of contemporary poetry — some good, some not so good — but perhaps the most important and disturbing question it raises is this: What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.

Yikes. I keep wanting to be annoyed with this essay, and when Orr is throwing out gems like “Poetry has justified itself historically by asserting that no matter how small its audience or dotty its practitioners, it remains the place one goes for the highest of High Art[,]” it’s really hard not to just smack myself in the forehead, except my head already hurts for some seriously non-poetry-related reasons, so I’m going to save all self-flagellation for the repentance session I have scheduled for later this afternoon.


Author Spotlight & Random / 23 Comments
February 21st, 2009 / 1:11 pm