Collected Poems 1956-1987

John Ashbery, Author , edited by Mark Ford. Library of America $40 (1042p) ISBN 978-1-59853-028-5

The first half of a projected two-volume set, this major book, the first collection from Library of America by a living poet, offers a view of Ashbery's artistic development over many decades. Ashbery, now 80, is celebrated for his varied, often elliptical style, which, though verging on the incomprehensible at times, has consistently delighted readers and critics. This volume contains all of Ashbery's books up through 1987's April Galleons ; it begins with the Yale Younger Poets Prize–winning Some Trees (1956), chosen by Auden, and includes Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), which won all three major American book awards. Other notable inclusions are the complete text of The Vermont Notebook , with illustrations by Joe Brainard, and an ample group of uncollected poems. Watching Ashbery's art grow from the slippery romanticism and verbal hijinks of the early poems through the philosophical, if sideways, inquiry of the '70s, to the chattier, colloquial period inaugurated in the early '80s, is arresting. Though Ashbery has confounded and inspired in seemingly equal measure, he is, according to both his admirers and critics, the towering figure in contemporary American poetry. This volume follows on the heels of this past April's Notes from the Air: Collected Later Poems . (Oct).

Reviewed on: 08/18/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
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