Poetry News

In Which We Round Up Recent Attention & Affection for the Only John Ashbery

By Harriet Staff
John Ashbery

The poet John Clare made the rapid transfer of the present believable, wrote John Ashbery in an introduction to the central, off-center Clare in Other Traditions, since for Clare—a minor key whose significant influence on Ashbery belied such stature—"experiencing was the same as telling." One did not feel transported from "the squishy scene," wrote J.A., but "pressed further down into it." We too feel pressed further down into it, if we can render that "it" as anything and everything squishy or scenic that has to do with the central, off-center Ashbery, who died on Sunday at the age of 90. From what we hear, he was happily writing even into last week.

Here then is our attempt at a believable, rapid transfer of the present: a roundup of the latest tributes, remembrances, anecdotes, critical considerations, reprinted interviews and reviews, and much else related to the work and life of the writer, poet, and all-around gem we all miss (with more to come, surely—it is the Internet, after all).

With love,



National & International Obituaries

The New York Times, by David Orr and Danitia Smith

Los Angeles Times (AP Story)

Le Monde (France), by friend Olivier Brossard

The Guardian (United Kingdom), by renowned biographer Mark Ford

Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), by critic, translator, scholar Jesper Olsson

The New Yorker, by Dan Chiasson

PBS NewsHour, by Corinne Segal

NPR, by Emma Bowman


Remembrances From Friends, Colleagues, Former Students 

Harvard's Houghton Library Blog: "In Memoriam: John Ashbery"

Tania Ketenjian at The Guardian

Ian Dreiblatt on Facebook

"his love of impishness was everywhere — he’d light up talking about Ern Malley, or the crazy text on a Dr. Bronner’s bottle — and his world of elegant maniacs — Artaud, Roussel, Frank of course — stayed visible just across the water."

Rae Armantrout in the New York Times: "John Ashbery's Avoidance of the Easy" 

"If you could find the impossible space where Franz Kafka overlapped with the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, John would be sitting there happily, grinning like the Cheshire cat."

Matthew Zapruder in the San Francisco Chronicle: "John Ashbery, a poet of the ineffable who mastered many modes"

Andrew Epstein, Locus Solus

David Lehman, The American Scholar: "Remembering JA"

"Some of his friends called him Ashes. I favored JA in part because of his brilliant early poem 'The Picture of Little JA in a Prospect of Flowers,' the title of which was itself a lift from a poem by Andrew Marvell." 

Ben Lerner in the New Yorker: "John Ashbery's Whisper Out of Time" 

John Emil Vincent, Best American Poetry

Terence Winch, Best American Poetry


Poems & Interviews

Chicago Review collects all of J.A.'s contributions to CR (1974–2006) 

Paris Review links to their 1993 interview, "The Art of Poetry No. 33"

Publishers Weekly: "The 10 Best John Ashbery Poems" (published in June)

NYT selects Ashbery poems of note (compiled by Maggie Astor)

PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown revisits his conversation with Ashbery from 2007 (audio)

"Ashbery: 64 indispensible poems," chosen by Al Filreis for Jacket2

BBC Radio 3: A special archive repeat of "The Verb" from 2014, including Ian McMillan's interview with the award-winning poet John Ashbery (audio)

Harvard Advocate, Spring 2002: Cody Carvel & Rob Dennis interviewed John Ashbery '49

David Spittle talked to Ashbery about his love for the movies upon the opening of Harvard Film Archive's 2009 "John Ashbery at the Movies"


Reflections on the Work

David Orr in the New York Times: "John Ashbery, the Gift of Quiet Moments"

Alex Ross in the New Yorker: "Driving Country Roads With John Ashbery"

Paul Muldoon in the New Yorker: "John Ashbery Changed the Rules of American Poetry"

 in the New Yorker: "The Gentleness of John Ashbery"

Evan Kindley in the New Republic: "How Should We Grieve John Ashbery?"



Recent Press & Reviews

Patrick James Dunagan reviewed Karin Roffman's biography, The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery's Early Life (The Rumpus, Sept. 1, 2017)

A personal note and review of the Roffman biography from John Keene (June 2017)


Special Attention

Double Change's Ashbery dossier, "L'oeil de boeuf," published in December 2001, features writing by Harry Mathews, Trevor Winkfield, Mark Ford, Frank O'Hara, Pierre Alféri, David Kermani, and Ashbery himself (in French, pdf download)

Jacket2 collects years and years of essays, conversations, readings, interviews, and other Ashbery-related content—an invaluable resource

"90 Lines for John Ashbery's 90th Birthday": On the occasion of Ashbery's 90th birthday, Literary Hub invited 90 of his dearest friends, collaborators, and admirers to pick a favorite line from Ashbery's oeuvre and write about it in 90 words or fewer

"A DREAM OF THIS ROOM: A Created Spaces Portfolio of Works on John Ashbery’s Textual and Domestic Environments" includes gorgeous writing by Ashbery's husband, David Kermani, among many others, on J.A.'s domestic spaces: the library, the home, the cinema (Rain Taxi, edited by Micaela Morrissette)



Originally Published: September 6th, 2017
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