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Rivers and Mountains

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  194 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
From one of our most important modern poets comes an essential early collection, including the famous long poems "The Skaters" and "Clepsydra"When "Rivers and Mountains" was published in 1966, American poetry was in a state of radical redefinition, with John Ashbery recognized as one of the leading voices in the New York School of poets. Ashbery himself had just returned t ...more
Hardcover, 63 pages
Published January 1st 1966 by Ecco Press
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S. Wilson
Dec 09, 2016 S. Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This early collection is my first exposure to John Ashbery, and after researching the mixed critical acceptance of his work throughout his career, I feel a little less overwhelmed by my initial reaction to some of the poems within. Ashbery is well known for his surrealist style, and this definitely comes across in poems such as The Recent Past, and A Blessing in Disguise. Most reviews of this collection heap a lot of praise on the long-form poem that takes up nearly half of this volume, The Skat ...more
Nov 14, 2008 Kent rated it it was amazing
Maybe it isn't right to love a book just for one poem. And it's not that I don't love all the poems here, even with the style for my ear to be too close to that dense poetics of The Tennis Court Oath. However, then there's "The Skaters." Ashbery in long form, in long unending meditation, is the big mind that makes me trust everything he writes. I understand that of course life inundates every person. But Ashbery has a way of making this tragic and enervating and provocative and hopeful all at on ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it
do I have to write a review right now
Jul 31, 2007 Mitch rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite Ashbery books, I have the Ecco Press edition of this. I love the poem using all the rivers from a map, and the sense that naming places is a poetic act all by itself. very amusing, and light-hearted poems, a little off. masterpiece.
Jul 31, 2007 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
This is one of the great poetry books of the 1960s, featuring the major long poem "The Skaters" plus a wonderful list poem "Into the Dusk Charged Air."
Nov 08, 2008 Anselm rated it it was amazing
Having just read The Skaters again a couple times I'd like five more stars please.
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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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“A Blessing in Disguise

Yes, they are alive and can have those colors,
But I, in my soul, am alive too.
I feel I must sing and dance, to tell
Of this in a way, that knowing you may be drawn to me.

And I sing amid despair and isolation
Of the chance to know you, to sing of me
Which are you. You see,
You hold me up to the light in a way

I should never have expected, or suspected, perhaps
Because you always tell me I am you,
And right. The great spruces loom.
I am yours to die with, to desire.

I cannot ever think of me, I desire you
For a room in which the chairs ever
Have their backs turned to the light
Inflicted on the stone and paths, the real trees

That seem to shine at me through a lattice toward you.
If the wild light of this January day is true
I pledge me to be truthful unto you
Whom I cannot ever stop remembering.

Remembering to forgive. Remember to pass beyond you into
the day
On the wings of the secret you will never know.
Taking me from myself, in the path
Which the pastel girth of the day has assigned to me.

I prefer "you" in the plural, I want "you,"
You must come to me, all golden and pale
Like the dew and the air.
And then I start getting this feeling of exaltation.”
“The Recent Past

Perhaps we ought to feel with more imagination.
As today the sky 70 degrees above zero with lines falling
The way September moves a lace curtain to be near a pear,
The oddest device can't be usual. And that is where
The pejorative sense of fear moves axles. In the stars
There is no longer any peace, emptied like a cup of coffee
Between the blinding rain that interviews.

You were my quintuplets when I decided to leave you
Opening a picture book the pictures were all of grass
Slowly the book was on fire, you the reader
Sitting with specs full of smoke exclaimed
How it was a rhyme for "brick" or "redder."
The next chapter told all about a brook.
You were beginning to see the relation when a tidal wave
Arrived with sinking ships that spelled out "Aladdin."
I thought about the Arab boy in his cave
But the thoughts came faster than advice.
If you knew that snow was a still toboggan in space
The print could rhyme with "fallen star.”
More quotes…