This is a basic introduction to some themes in John Ashbery’s poetry. I came across Ashbery’s writing in the 1960s. Here I reflect on the schizophrenia of fame. This piece was written ages ago, and now forms part of an Ashbery feature in Jacket 2, January 1998, alongside articles and two interviews and poems and so forth.
It’s free: take a look.
THERE ARE THREE John Ashberys. The first is the boy who grew into the man who became a scholar and artificer of words. I call him the Primary or Mundane Ashbery. After a youth spent on a fruit farm in upstate New York he attended college and then Harvard University. He gradually turned into another person, a poet; the poet who wrote all those poems, plugging on year after year, one sheet of paper after another rolling through the Royal, until some sixteen of his works stand there on the shelf to entrance and puzzle us.