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Selected Poems

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  1,039 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
From the early virtuosity of Some Trees and The Tennis Court Oath through the triumphs of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror to the brilliance of A Wave - each collection of John Ashbery's verse has broken new ground. Now, from the whole range of a lifetime's work, Ashbery has chosen his own selection of 138 poems, including short lyrics, haiku, pr ...more
Paperback, Penguin Poets, 368 pages
Published December 2nd 1986 by Penguin (first published 1967)
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Alejandro Teruel
My first reaction to reading John Ashbery's poetry was to write a poem of my own, On John Ashbery (2016):
A poetry too far
ravenous for meaning
conceding shards
the grass ties loosely underfoot.

You are required to lecture
on the amorphous properties
of thorns and burrs, love
at its most prophetic.
This certainly attests to the poetry's capacity for inspirational stimuli, goes straight to the poet's peek-a-boo playfulness with meaning, its characteristically postmodern fragmentation and his penchant for
Timothy Muller
Apr 23, 2014 Timothy Muller rated it it was ok
William Logan has said of John Ashbery: "Few poets have so cleverly manipulated, or just plain tortured, our soiled desire for meaning. He reminds us that most poets who give us meaning don't know what they're talking about." This is probably as good a guess as to what Asbery is up to as any.

The mind searches naturally for meaning. Most people glom onto to some dogma very quickly in life and remain there. But then someone, let’s say a poet, comes along and attempts to convince us that the meanin
Jul 24, 2016 Bruce added it
John Ashbery, who will be 89 years old in less than a week, has long held a prominent place in American poetry, praised by some as being as influential as T.S. Eliot and criticized by others as producing poetry difficult and even opaque. He continues to be creative and prolific. This present book was published in 1985 and thus contains selections of his works, self-chosen, only up to that time, his subsequent poetry also being well worth exploring for the interested reader.

I find Ashbery’s work
Sep 16, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
John Ashbery is arguably the greatest American poet of the latter half of the 20th century, and this is a collection of his finest work. After reading the first half of this collection I wasn’t thinking about giving it a high rating, due the the annoying way he associates non-related things (and often using poor grammar). But that’s poetry, so I stuck with it. And I’m glad I did, because by the time the second half rolled around, Ashbery’s dissociative antics started to loosely make sense to me, ...more
Edward Rathke
Jul 10, 2013 Edward Rathke rated it liked it
It's often strange looking at a person's entire career and holding it in your hands. There are stretches of pages that I absolutely loved and would read again followed by stretches I wish I hadn't allowed myself to sit through. I guess Ashbery's a pretty polarising figure in poetry, so maybe this is a normal reaction to him, though I think people tend to hate or love. I find that I love him and I hate him, over and over.

Definitely worth picking up, though. There's a lot of great poetry in here.
David M
Apr 13, 2016 David M rated it really liked it
The appeal of Ashbery is that he writes one continuous poem, sort of a confession, but not a personal confession. What appears on the page are just the snatches you happen to overhear. The downside of this - well, he really can be a pain in the ass.
Jun 19, 2009 Stop added it
Read the STOP SMILING interview with poet John Ashbery

By 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 they were in
May 05, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This thick volume of Ashbery's selected poems has sat on my bookshelf for years intimidating me. I picked it up a few times and could only get a poem or two into it before being frustrated by its complexity and opaqueness. This time I decided I was going to tough my way through the entire volume. Strangest damn thing - now I'm an Ashbery fan. . . As they say, familiarity breeds appreciation, and the more I got into Ashbery's work, the better I understood and admired it. I found he is at his best ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Andrew added it
Shelves: poetry
People call Ashbery a polarizing figure in poetry, so I'll be even more of a contrarian by saying that some of his work is an absolute revelation-- Self-Portrait is just as amazing as I remember-- and some is really just opacity covering up for a lack of ideas, his prose writing being an especially egregious offender.

But... Self-Portrait, and some of the early poems, like The Instruction Manual. Surrealism at its finest.
Jesse Cooley
Apr 12, 2011 Jesse Cooley rated it liked it
John Ashbery's "Selected Poems" is a delightfully profound look into the career of a literary giant. Ashbery's style of poetry is notably complex. Most of his poems deal with writing, especially writing poetry. In these examinations, however, Ashbery seldom misses an opportunity to paint a beautiful image or human portrait.
Aug 31, 2016 Jeff rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa-poetry
Try as I might, I can't seem to get anything out of Ashbery. It's all interchangeable word salad to me. I dunno why I even finished this book to be honest, it felt like reading the same poem 130 times.
Nov 16, 2010 Daniel marked it as not-read
Shelves: 811-00-poetry
From the early virtuosity of Some Trees and The Tennis Court Oath through the triumphs of The Double Dream of Spring and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror to the latest brilliance of Wave--each new collection of John...
Oct 11, 2014 B. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
One of the few poetry collections I return to for solace, entertainment and brain expansion. An avant-garde of the extra-sensual.
Marcine Miller
Aug 14, 2015 Marcine Miller rated it liked it

On some level, I hate John Ashbery. I went to a reading several years ago and fell asleep for most of it.
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Aug 30, 2007
Jason J. Blickstein
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  • Selected Poems
  • Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems
  • The Changing Light at Sandover
  • Collected Poems
  • The Selected Poems
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Collected Poems
  • The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990
  • The Complete Poems
  • Complete Poems
  • The Maximus Poems
  • My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry
  • Praise
  • The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New
  • The Sonnets
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 more 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, ...more
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