John Ashbery

Comments & Themes


    • What is all the fuss about Ashbery and painting about? Where do we see the pictorial in poetry, especially when we do not deal with figurative but abstract painting?


    • "Self-Portrait" has been called "The Waste Land of the seventies". Assess the accuracy of this analogy.


    • Rigid poetic forms (sestinas, pantoums) were favored by the New York School poets for their high demands on the poet's imagination. Assess the dissociative effect of such forms in Ashbery's "The Painter".


    • In Ashbery's poems the dance of pronouns can be truly scary for the reader desperately trying to make (of all things) 'sense' of the poetry.


    • Critics who know more than you and me often refer to Ashbery as a champion of the American vernacular idiom. Would you agree? Can you justify it with examples?


    • Ashbery is a master of digressions. Sometimes the digressions alone seem to justify the poem. Relate this to the postmodern.


    • When it comes to humor, critics seem to be divided between those who find Ashbery offputting (to put it mildly) and those who consider him a genius for his wit. Where do you stand in this discussion?



    • Ashbery's landscapes seem to be observed from a train car. Does this perspective alter the view in any way (through motion, framing, etc)?


    • How is Parmigianino present in "Self-Portrait"? And Ashbery? And you?