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May 16, 1976Sanders TheatreCambridge, MA

About this poet

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, on July 28, 1927. He is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including Quick Question (Ecco, 2012); Planisphere (HarperCollins, 2009); A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007); Where Shall I Wander (HarperCollins, 2005); Chinese Whispers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002); Your Name Here (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000); Girls on the Run: A Poem (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999); Wakefulness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998); Can You Hear, Bird (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995); And the Stars Were Shining (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994); Hotel Lautrémont (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992); Flow Chart (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991); and April Galleons (Penguin, 1987).

Ashbery has won nearly every major American award for poetry. His collection A Wave (Viking, 1984) won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award; and Some Trees (Yale University Press, 1956) was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

He has also published Collected French Translations: Poetry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); Collected French Translations: Prose (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); Other Traditions: the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Harvard University Press, 2000); Reported Sightings (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), a book of art criticism; a collection of plays; a novel, A Nest of Ninnies (Dutton, 1969), with James Schuyler; and edited The Best American Poetry 1988.

Ashbery served as the poet laureate of New York State from 2001 to 2003. He was also the first English-language poet to win the Grand Prix de Biennales Internationales de Poésie (Brussels), and has also received the Bollingen Prize, the English Speaking Union Prize, the Feltrinelli Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, two Ingram Merrill Foundation grants, the MLA Common Wealth Award in Literature, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the Frank O'Hara Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Ashbery is currently the Charles P. Stevenson, Jr., Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He divides his time between New York City and Hudson, New York.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Quick Question (Ecco, 2012)
Planisphere (HarperCollins, 2009)
A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007)
Where Shall I Wander (HarperCollins, 2005)
Chinese Whispers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)
Your Name Here (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Girls on the Run: A Poem (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)
Wakefulness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998)
Can You Hear, Bird (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)
And the Stars Were Shining (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994)
Hotel Lautrémont (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)
Flow Chart (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991)
April Galleons (Penguin, 1987)
Wave (Viking, 1984)
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking, 1975)
Some Trees (Yale University Press, 1956) 

Fiction

A Nest of Ninnies (Dutton, 1969)

Nonfiction

Other Traditions: the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Harvard University Press, 2000)
Reported Sightings (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989)

Translation

Collected French Translations: Poetry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)
Collected French Translations: Prose (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)


Multimedia

From the Image ArchiveFrom The Poet's View: Intimate Profiles of Five Major American Poets, available in the Poetry Store.   

 

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape

John Ashbery, 1927
The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits 
   in thunder,
Unthought of. From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain's hue, a tangram emerges: a country."
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: "How 
   pleasant
To spend one's vacation en la casa de Popeye," she 
   scratched
Her cleft chin's solitary hair. She remembered spinach

And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
"M'love," he intercepted, "the plains are decked out 
   in thunder
Today, and it shall be as you wish." He scratched
The part of his head under his hat. The apartment
Seemed to grow smaller. "But what if no pleasant
Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my 
   country."

Suddenly they remembered how it was cheaper in the country.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 can of spinach
When the door opened and Swee'pea crept in. "How pleasant!"
But Swee'pea looked morose. A note was pinned to his bib. 
   "Thunder
And tears are unavailing," it read. "Henceforth shall
   Popeye's apartment
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or 
   scratched."

Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh. "I have news!" she gasped. "Popeye, forced as 
   you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened, 
   duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant

Arpeggio of our years. No more shall pleasant
Rays of the sun refresh your sense of growing old, nor the 
   scratched
Tree-trunks and mossy foliage, only immaculate darkness and 
   thunder."
She grabbed Swee'pea. "I'm taking the brat to the country."
"But you can't do that--he hasn't even finished his spinach,"
Urged the Sea Hag, looking fearfully around at the apartment.

But Olive was already out of earshot. Now the apartment
Succumbed to a strange new hush. "Actually it's quite pleasant
Here," thought the Sea Hag. "If this is all we need fear from 
   spinach
Then I don't mind so much. Perhaps we could invite Alice the Goon 
   over"--she scratched
One dug pensively--"but Wimpy is such a country
Bumpkin, always burping like that." Minute at first, the thunder

Soon filled the apartment. It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach. Popeye chuckled and scratched
His balls: it sure was pleasant to spend a day in the country.

From The Double Dream of Spring by John Ashbery. Copyright © 1970, 1969, 1968, 1967, 1966 by John Ashbery. Recording courtesy of the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard University. Used with permission of Georges Borchandt, Inc., Literary Agency.

From The Double Dream of Spring by John Ashbery. Copyright © 1970, 1969, 1968, 1967, 1966 by John Ashbery. Recording courtesy of the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard University. Used with permission of Georges Borchandt, Inc., Literary Agency.

John Ashbery

John Ashbery

John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, on July 28, 1927.

by this poet

poem
Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, "mugwump
of the final hour," lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
and the whole point of its being spring collapse
like a hole dug
poem
Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
Of the things beneath the sky. Of course, Eurydice was a part
Of this. Then one day, everything changed. He rends
Rocks into fissures with lament. Gullies, hummocks
Can't withstand it. The sky shudders from one horizon
To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness.
Then
poem
Thirsty? They race across ampersands,
scrolling. He isn't sure it's his head.
There's a delay right now. Smoke backed up.
Ladies please remove hats.

It was all over by morning. The village idiot
was surprised to see us. "...thought you were in Normandy."
Like all pendulums we were surprised,
then slightly