John Ashbery

March 25–26, 2002


John Ashbery Born in Rochester, New York, in 1927, John Ashbery is the author of over twenty books of poetry. In 1984, his book A Wave won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. For Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. Some Trees (1956) was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series. He has received a long-list of other rewards, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the Bollingen Prize, the English Speaking Union Prize, the Feltrinelli Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, two Ingram Merrill Foundation grants, the MLA Common Wealth Award in Literature, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, the Frank O'Hara Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He is also a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

"When one goes at ideas directly, with hammer and tongs as it were, ideas tend to elude one in a poem. I think they only come back in when one pretends not to be paying any attention to them, like a cat that will rub against your leg." --- John Ashbery
"There is a meditative Ashbery, a formalist Ashbery, a comic Ashbery, a late-Romantic Ashbery, a Language poet Ashbery, and so on-even, as Charles Altieri shows us here, a love poet. No poet since Whitman has tapped into so many distinctly American voices and, at the same time, so preserved his utterance against the jangle of influences. Of course, as in an intricate Venn diagram, these Ashberys overlap; form inspires comedy and meditation (as in 'Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape')." --- Susan M. Schultz, from the introduction to The Tribe of John Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry

Pennsound mp3 files

Discussion, March 26, 2002

Complete discussion (1:03:44)

  1. introduction by Al Filreis (7:36)
  2. memory and age (2:36)
  3. "Crossroads in the Past" and "Enjoys Watching Foreign Films" (5:03)
  4. prose and verse (3:59)
  5. Harvard lectures (2:58)
  6. Delmore Schwartz (3:25)
  7. unknown, "minor" poets (5:54)
  8. confessional poems (3:08)
  9. narrative poetry (1:07)
  10. on publishing (6:35)
  11. reading Ashbery in anthologies and "The One Thing That Can Save America" (3:01)
  12. connections to music and visual art (2:54)
  13. influence of Delmore Schwartz (4:55)
  14. the space between self and poetry (2:47)
  15. current writing process (3:39)
  16. comparison and jealousy (1:50)
  17. "Enjoys Watching Foreign Films" (2:19)

Students and visitors world-wide taking part in this event

John Ashbery and Al Filreis during the March 26, 2002, Writers House Fellows discussion, webcast live.

At Eastern Michigan University Randal Baier made the Writers House webcast available to students and faculty at EMU's Halle Library.

At Cornell University an entire class of students taught by Jonathan Monroe and Joel Kurzai participated.

Among others who participated were Penn alumnus Bob Martin, who was in Beijing, and eminent poetry scholar and critic, Marjorie Perloff, who spoke with us from Los Angeles.