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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

ashbery book national poem

a collection of poems by John Ashbery, published in 1975, which achieved the unprecedented distinction of winning all three of America's principal book awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics' Circle Award. It consists of thirty-four shorter poems, ‘Grand Galop’, ‘Hop O'My Thumb’, and ‘The One Thing That Can Save America’ being among the best-known, and the lengthy title work, which was largely responsible for the acclaim the volume generated. As an extended meditation on a self-portrait by the Renaissance painter Parmigianino, the poem exemplifies the scope and imaginative power of the visual aesthetic which informs much of Ashbery's writing. Ranging between scholarly detachment and passionate conviction in its subtle tonal modulations, its chief concerns are the relations between art and actuality and the interactions of personal and public experience in ‘a society specifically | Organized as a demonstration of itself’. The sense of social engagement apparent in the title poem and a number of the shorter pieces was welcomed as an indication of Ashbery's emergence from the often opaquely private idioms of his earlier verse.

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