John Ashbery (b. 1927)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the twentieth-century New York poet John Ashbery, favoring signed scholarly articles and articles published in peer-reviewed sources


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introduction & biography

"John Ashbery." The Modern American Poetry web site on John Ashbery includes critical commentary: On "'They Only Dream of America'"; On "Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape"; On "Syringa"; On "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" with a Note on "Hop o' My Thumb"; On "Paradoxes and Oxymorons." Modern American Poetry, Univ. of Illinois.

"John Ashbery." An encyclopedia-type article on John Ashbery, also includes a list of his works, text for poems, and a recommended reading list. Poetry Foundation.

"John Ashbery." Poetry Archive. Directors, Andrew Motion & Richard Carrington.

"John Ashbery." A brief biography of John Ashbery from the Academy of American Poets.

Tranter, John. "John Ashbery." Ashbery discusses his later thoughts about "Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror" and The Tennis Court Oath in a 1985 interview by the publisher of Jacket magazine.

Tranter, John. "John Ashbery." Another interview with John Ashbery, this for the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kane, Daniel. "John Ashbery." A substantial introduction to John Ashbery, from the Literary Encyclopedia, 24 June 2003.

Phillips, Rodney The New York School poets from the Literary Encyclopedia, 20 December 2004.


literary criticism

Gilson, Annette. "Disseminating 'circumference': the diachronic presence of Dickinson in John Ashbery's 'Clepsydra.'" Gilson discusses the image of circularity in the poetry of John Ashbery and Emily Dickinson. Twentieth Century Literature 44, 4 (Winter 1998) pp 484-505 [sub ser, questia].

Imbriglio, Catherine. "'Our days put on such reticence': The rhetoric of the closet in John Ashbery's Some Trees." On Ashbery's reticence about homosexuality. Contemporary Literature 36, 2 (Summer 1995) [jstor].

Jackson, Richard. "Many Happy Returns: The Poetry of John Ashbery." Ashbery's technique is one in which the figures of speech qualify and redefine their own meanings, continuously returning with additional variations. Ploughshares Fall 1986 [dead link].

Leddy, Michael. "Lives and Art: John Ashbery and Henry Darger." Jacket 17 (June 2002).

Lepkowski, Frank J. "John Ashbery's revision of the post-romantic quest: meaning, evasion, and allusion in 'Grand Galop.'" Twentieth Century Literature Fall 1993 [jstor].

Norton, Jody. "'Whispers Out of Time': The syntax of being in the poetry of John Ashbery." "Because of the formal, theoretical, and thematic centrality of language in his poetry, Ashbery's work cannot be understood outside the context of contemporary philosophy of language, and especially the work of Heidegger, Derrida, and Wittgenstein." Twentieth Century Literature Fall 1995 [jstor].

Perloff, Marjorie. "Normalizing John Ashbery." Critical interpretations that see Ashbery as continuing the tradition of modernism contrasted to interpretations that contend Ashbery's work represents a breakthrough to postmodernism. From Perloff's web site at SUNY Buffalo.

Perloff, Marjorie. "Still Time for Surprises" A review of John Ashbery's Your Name Here and David Herd's John Ashbery and American Poetry. Thumbscrew 18 (Spring 2001).

Shepherd, Reginald. "Only in the Light of Lost Words Can We Imagine Our Rewards." On Some Trees, and Ashbery's likeness to Wallace Stevens in "The Painter," "Le livre est sur la table," and "The Instruction Manual." Conjunctions 49 (Fall 2007).

Shultz, Susan M. Full-text of Shultz's introduction to The Tribe of John Ashbery.

Suarez-Toste, Ernesto. "'The tension is in the concept': John Ashbery's surrealism." Style 38, 1 (Spring 2004) [questia].

Sweet, David. "'And Ut Pictura Poesis is her name': John Ashbery, the plastic arts, and the avant-garde." Comparative Literature 50, 4 (Autumn 1998) [jstor].

Tranter, John. "Three John Ashberys," an introduction to Ashbery's themes, Jacket 2 (Jan. 1998). This issue of the outstanding web publication Jacket is devoted to John Ashbery.

Vendler, Helen Invisible Listeners: Lyric Intimacy in Herbert, Whitman, and Ashbery (Princeton UP 2005). Publisher's blurb. Vendler's introductory chapter.

Vincent, John. "Reports of looting and insane buggery behind altars: John Ashbery's queer politics." "In this essay, I will show how, in three poems that span Ashbery's oeuvre, a semiotics and thematics of homosexuality jimmies open address and reference, as well as logical, figural, and poetic closure." Twentieth Century Literature 1998 [jstor].

Vincent, John. "Escaping the future." Vincent notes that "John Ashbery’s Girls on the run... is less difficult than his recent short lyrics because it is less violent in its syntactic, pronominal and address shifts. This is not to say that it is an easy read. However, the book is literally and figuratively clothed in the lush fabric of the 'children’s adventure story.'" Jacket 32 (Oct. 2007).


web sites & bibliographies

Ashbery Resource Center, an archival and research project which collects and preserves materials relating to Ashbery, with a particular focus on Ashbery's work as it relates to the visual arts, cinema, music, architecture, the decorative arts.

Discussion questions for teaching John Ashbery from educational publisher Heath.


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