Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems

John Ashbery, Author . Ecco $34.95 (364p) ISBN 978-0-06-136717-5

Ashbery’s original, seminal Selected Poems crowned the first half of a career that has largely defined American poetry since the middle of the 20th century. One could think of that first Selected , published in 1985, as the summation of Ashbery’s philosophical period, in which the poet self-consciously interrogated the grip—or lack of one—language exerts on the world at large, most notably in poems like “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” This new volume—beginning with poems from April Galleons (1987) and ending with Where Shall I Wander (2005)—presents the first panoramic view of Ashbery’s second phase, in which he explores, celebrates, sends up and revels in the American vernacular. Encompassing the surreal (“You mop your forehead with a rose, recommending its thorns”), the tender (“Everything was spotless in the little house of our desire”), the self-deprecating (“There was I: a stinking adult”) and the quietly, utterly haunting (“Those who came closest did not come close”), Ashbery seems to hit every possible note in his scattershot manner. Of particular interest are extended selections from the book-length works Flow Chart (1991) and Girls on the Run (1999). This is an essential book. Along with the original Selected (Penguin), we can now see the full impact of the most representative poet of the last 50 years. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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