Ashbery, John, 1927–, American poet, b. Rochester, N.Y., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1949), Columbia (M.A., 1951). Ashbery is among the most acclaimed contemporary American poets. During the 1960s and 70s he was one of the so-called New York school of poets, which also included Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. Influenced early in his career by the method and music of John Cage, Ashbery has called his writing technique "managed chance." His poems are experimental in style and syntax, strongly visual, and narrative, but typically complex and somewhat obscure. His collections include Some Trees (1956), Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, his most celebrated work (1975; Pulitzer Prize), Shadow Train (1981), A Wave (1984), April Galleons (1987), And the Stars Were Shining (1994), Chinese Whispers (2002), Where Shall I Wander (2005), and Planisphere (2009). He also has written two book-length poems, Flow Chart (1991) and Girls on the Run (1999); three plays, The Compromise (1960), The Heroes (1960), and The Philosopher (1964); and coauthored a novel, A Nest of Ninnies (1969). Ashbery is an art critic as well, and edited the quarterly Art and Literature. Many of his art reviews and essays were collected in Reported Sightings (1989). He also has translated works by such French writers as Pierre Reverdy, Raymond Roussel, Max Jacob, and Arthur Rimbaud.
See his Selected Prose (2005); studies by D. Shapiro (1979), D. Lehman, ed. (1980) and as author (1999), H. Bloom, ed. (1985 and 2004), J. Shoptaw (1994), S. M. Schultz, ed. (1995), D. Herd (2000), G. Ward (2d ed. 2001), K. Bartczak (2006), A. DuBois (2006), and J. E. Vincent (2007).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.