Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror John Ashberry won the Pulitzer Prize the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror Ashberry reaffirms the poetic powers that have made him s

  • Title: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  • Author: John Ashbery
  • ISBN: 9780140586688
  • Page: 351
  • Format: Paperback
  • John Ashberry won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror Ashberry reaffirms the poetic powers that have made him such an outstanding figure in contemporary literature This new book continues his astonishing explorations of places where no one has ever been.

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    John Ashbery

    John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927 He earned degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and he traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to France in 1955 Best known as a poet, he has published than twenty collections, most recently A Worldly Country Ecco, 2007 His Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror Viking, 1975 won the three major American prizes the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and an early book, Some Trees, was selected by W H Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series He has served as executive editor of Art News and as the art critic for New York magazine and Newsweek A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1988 to 1999 The winner of many prizes and awards, both nationally and internationally, he has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was a MacArthur Fellow from 1985 to 1990 His work has been translated into than twenty languages He lives in New York, and since 1990 he has been the Charles P Stevenson Jr Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard.

    794 Comment

    • Well, I mean, GOD. You know? So beautiful. But also Ashbery sizing up the same kind of moral question over and over a dozen times in the space of a poem, and with dozens of poems (including the formidable and exhausting kind of index of ideas in the title poem) it just wrung me utterly dry. I could be completely wrong in my interpretation (Dana says: I could just be talking out of my ass) or doing the most pre-emptory surface reading. All this has happened before. (Particularly since Dana says t [...]

    • "You bad birds,But God shall not punish you, youShall be with us in heaven, though lessConscious of your happiness, perhaps than we."

    • Gosh, am I actually allowed to dislike this? Will I be thrown out of some club? I feel some trepidation.What has finally given me permission to say I don't like it is listening to the august Poetry Magazine's podcast in which they defend Ashbery, saying the work is bricolage. Well, I hate bricolage, so hooray! Every so often there is some fantastic line or image and I try to seize it and connect it to something. But nothing is connected to anything. I, too, find incoherent juxtaposition very ent [...]

    • After all, he is the head of the epistemological revolution in American poetry (says T. Hoagland) and after all he is a so & so whatever fellow with an apartment on rails to prove it and didn't he live in Paris for a while like a good little J.A. He's laughing at us for loving him. I just know he's holding these flowers and he gets it. He gets us this big piece of the cake and we nibble it on the fat couch.

    • I don't know if I'm poetry-deaf or what, but this just seems like a bunch of words strung together for no reason other than to befuddle.

    • 40% evocative imagery and 60% highbrow gibberish. In this review, I'll sort out which is which, and dare you to up the percentages.RiverIt thinks itself too good forThese generalizations and isMoved on by them. The opposite sideIs plunged in shade, this oneIn self-esteem. But the centerKeeps collapsing and re-forming.The couple at a picnic table (butIt's too early in the season for picnics)Are traipsed across by the river'sUnknowing knowledge of its workingsTo avoid possible boredom and the stai [...]

    • Ugh, wonderful! Wonderful wonderful wonderful! I haven't responded to poetry in this way in so long! I don't remember much of anything, and I understand probably even less, but I want to read this book and these poems again and again and again! I found a podcast of Ashbery reading from the title poem for about 20 minutes, and this seemed a really productive inroad for me. The difficulty in recall with his work, for me, lies in the fact that Ashbery sequences images and thoughts in ways that foll [...]

    • As One Put Drunk into the Packet-BoatI tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.Elsewhere we are as sitting in a place where sunlightFilters down, a little at a time,Waiting for someone to come. Harsh words are spoken,As the sun yellows the green of the maple tree…So this was all, but obscurelyI felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.New sentences were starting up. But the summer Was well along, not yet past the mid-point [...]

    • Steven Critelli

      (Feb 28, 2020 - 22:23 PM)

      In 1967 the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and in 1975 John Ashbery published Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Both works attained recognition for their creators as the highest achievement of contemporary art in their respective disciplines. I suppose it is unremarkable that every song on Sgt. Pepper is a memorable one, as almost every Beatle album had that distinction. Yet, it is worthy to note that, unlike most books of poetry, almost every poem in Self-Portrait has an [...]

    • Although Ashbery is a notoriously academic (i.e. difficult) poet to read, once you really start to immerse yourself in these poems they are quite extraordinary. A touch of surrealism here, and a smidge of classicism there really add a dichotomy to this collection in which Ashbery paradoxically takes his reader to the center of things by continuously circumventing it. The lines read more like free flowing (seemingly disjointed) thoughts building off one another than they do pretentious poetic con [...]

    • Poetry, maybe more than any other literary form, is so subjective. You can see that just by scrolling through the wildly divergent reactions to this collection. I've never read Ashbery before and it's a shame it took until his passing for me to pick up one of this books, but here we are. I admit there was a lot in here that didn't do it for me. It's challenging, vaporous, reflective in a highfalutin way that can feel distant and a little cold. And then he'll come out of nowhere with a punch in t [...]

    • My favorite poem in this book so far is "Lithuanian Dance Band," possibly because the voice in it reminds me of the voice of Ashbery's poet-friend Frank O'Hara, whom I love; however, there are many more echoes of T. S. Eliot than of Frank O'Hara in this book, as far as my untrained ear can make out.I think most people would argue that Ashbery is a greater poet than O'Hara, but my heart prefers O'Hara nonetheless. O'Hara maintained a certain persona throughout much of his poetry: the persona of t [...]

    • Read the STOP SMILING interview with poet John AshberyI GUESS IT'S ROMANTIC, IF YOU'RE A DOGBy Greg Purcell + Fred Sasaki (This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Hollywood Lost & Found Issue)The famed New York School of poetry was a network in the Fifties composed of friends, as they called one another, who didn’t know they were a part of any “school” at all. Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery — poets themselves — simply met new poets, as [...]

    • Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror is the first Ashbery book I've read. I heard audio recordings of a couple of his poems, but never read any of his books.Ashbery has a reputation for being hard. I see why! The first time I read through the book, I didn't start understanding the poems at all until about half way through the book, yet still liked them. When I read the book again, I understood it a lot more (but not totally) and really liked the poems. It is a weird feeling, liking poems while they [...]

    • I technically finished this book after a year of studying it, but I will no doubt continue to return to it, especially the long title poem, to continue to peel through its layers. Ashbery is a challenging poet, mapping the threads of conscious and unconscious thought with a precision that is sometimes baffling, but mostly illuminating. Though written all in free verse, he eschews any narrative impulses, including syntactical, to instead explore what constitutes a moment of being human, with the [...]

    • Patrick Marcoux

      (Feb 28, 2020 - 22:23 PM)

      Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror is def my favorite poem. It is a long poem about standing in a museum and looking at a drawing from 1524 by Parmigianino. The depths Ashbery reaches to deal with this artwork, though. It reminds me of the line in Nabokov's Lolita where Humbert is talking about the long string of hotels he and Lolita pass through, and he uses this french term--uses it with a nod to Flaubert--"nous connumes" or something which he translates as "We came to know" as in We came to kno [...]

    • Perhaps his best, and his most accessible. His legacy is the embedded radical surprise(s) in a poem. The swift and yet appropriate turn of thought, from line to line. He's lived and published long enough to be able to enjoy his reputation--like Adrienne Rich, perhaps. Although he is New York School, Stephen Burt's Elliptical Poets owe him much--what he leaves out of a poem, the sharp and sensible jumps. The appreciation of syntax--here is a poet finding the poetry of the American idiom, as Willi [...]

    • I have to admit, I have a hard time with Ashberry. I read it and really enjoy it, but five minutes later I can't remember what I've read. Very little sticks with me. The only poem that has any staying power for me is the title poem, and only bits of it. And the reason is, it's a poem about a concrete thing, a painting. You read lines like:(Big, but not coarse, merely on another scale,Like a dozing whale on the sea bottom In relation to the tiny, self-important shipOn the surface.)In reference to [...]

    • This one won a Pulitzer Prize, with the famous poem, "Foreboding" and the great title poem. I have the mass-market-sized Penguin paperback, yellow with age. This book has always been an inspiring one for me, I've used it for cut-ups for ages, because the lines are so intricately constructed. The best place to start, I think, for people who never read Ashbery before. Love the twists and turns, and it is around this time that Ashbery settles in to writing the kind of work he is so famous for. Alwa [...]

    • I have tried so hard to relish Ashbery, but I don't get it. He doesn't have any music, he's perhaps the most prosaic poet I've ever read. He doesn't do narrative; whenever he starts to tell a story he gets distracted and piles on different ideas that I find distracting, and not in a good way. Unpicking the loony personal experience that Pound offers in The Cantos is really rewarding and interesting compared to this. And he won't shut up. Prolix. Unengaging. Dull. "Affirmation that doesn't affirm [...]

    • My second "Ashbury," and things are going along the lines of the first ("Houseboat Days"). An early WTF moment from the poem Absolute Clearance:In the vague hotel roomThe linear blotches when duskLifted them up were days and nightsAnd out over the oceanThe wish persisted to be a dream at homeCloud or bird asleep in a troughOf discursive waters.I don't know if I'll finish it or not. I read difficult poetry all the time, but this stuff It's both beautiful and, for me at least, utterly meaningless. [...]

    • ~~And I cannot explain the action of leveling,Why it should all boil down to oneUniform substance, a magma of interiors.~~Thanks to Ethan for giving me a copy of this book, I'll treasure it forever. I hadn't read any Ashbery before grad school. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that I'm inexperienced in much of modern poetry, but I get by with what I can. Reading Ashbery was part of my attempt to remedy that, although I had no idea how much I would like him. I had heard about him in other ci [...]

    • i wore an outfit a blue and a green a dark kind of them that matched the cover of the first edition nick owns. it was glorious to read during the thunder outside. it was glorious. it was. i adore you john. let's make ham and vegannaise sandwiches together.

    • i just let him toss and turn me wherever he darn well pleasesnse as all heck, though.

    • I feel as though,Somebody had just brought me an equation.I say, I can't answer this--I knowThat it's true, please believe me

    • I finished "Mirror" in a long afternoon, taking breaks to digest each poem. And I must say, Ashbery was thoroughly disappointing. The poems present some interesting images, but none of them can cohesively wrap themselves around a central theme or idea. They are seemingly about nothing. Some start interestingly enough, but then they devolve into thoughts about enigmas or other lofty concepts. When the poems touch on the concrete, they're often just obscure metaphors - oceans, art, mirrors, the em [...]

    • Supremely underwhelmed by these poems. I don’t think they’re terrible or anything, but I felt very little connection to them. I read a few in the middle whilst drunk and enjoyed those very much, so maybe that’s the secret? The strongest piece in the book for me was the title poem; the rest I’ve already forgotten.

    • Elizabeth Wenger

      (Feb 28, 2020 - 22:23 PM)

      Some great poems, but I think he really hits his stride in the longer ones. The trouble with this is keeping focused on his words as he leads you through beautiful explanations to a really rewarding ending. This is a book that you have to be well awake for and ready to pay full attention. If you're reading Ashbery, you have to be WITH Ashbery.

    • Rest in Peace, John Ashbury, I'm sorry I put off reading you until after your passing.This was incredible and scratched an itch I've all too often got but can't quite seem to satisfy. Masterful stuff, absolutely breathtaking. Slightly dreamy and surreal but with a certain edge to it and a dash of classicism that I just ate right up.

    • An easy read that took me one sitting. Ashley's poetic glory comes in the title poem, which confronts us with our mortality, but not in a way which is morbid or unskilled. Some of the poems are difficult to fully grasp, but the word is clearly imbued with moments of excellence.

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