John Ashbery (John Lawrence Ashbery) Biography
(1927– ), (John Lawrence Ashbery), Art News, Turandot and Other Poems, Some Trees, The Tennis Court Oath
American poet, born in Rochester, New York, educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities. After working as a publisher's copywriter in New York, from 1960 to 1965 he lived in Paris. He wrote art criticism for various periodicals, including Art News, of which he became editor upon returning to New York. From 1974 to 1990 he was Professor of English at Brooklyn College, New York. His early collections of verse include Turandot and Other Poems (1953), Some Trees (1956), for which W. H. Auden supplied a foreword, The Tennis Court Oath (1962), and The Double Dream of Spring (1970). With Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, and James Schuyler, Ashbery was a leading member of the New York School of Poets in the late 1950s; his poetry of the period exemplifies the movement's characteristic use of compelling visual imagery as the active principle in their work. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) made him widely accepted as a poet of importance and initiated the preoccupation with long, thematically mobile poems which continued with Houseboat Days (1977), As We Know (1981), and A Wave (1984). Although Ashbery's work has been adversely criticized for its apparent evasions of paraphrasable meaning, its meditative qualities, sharply defined images, and communication of mood relate it to the lyrical and elegiac traditions of poetry. The flux of images and sensations suggested by many of his poems has been identified as an influence in the emergence of Language Poetry. Selected Poems (1985, revised edition 1987) was followed by April Galleons (1987), The Ice Storm (1987), Flow Chart (1991), Hotel Lautreamont (1992), and And the Stars were Shining (1994). Ashbery's art criticism is chiefly collected in Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957–1987 (edited by David Bergmann, 1989). His works for the stage, The Heroes, The Compromise, and The Philosopher, were published as Three Plays in 1978. A Nest of Ninnies (1969), a satirical novel parodying American suburban values, was written in collaboration with James Schuyler.