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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975)

by John Ashbery

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668629,691 (3.94)8
Revered as the greatest living American poet, John Ashbery is celebrated for his humour and versatility. This edition celebrates the 30th anniversary of the publication of this collection.

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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
By John Ashbery
1990, Penguin Books
Paperback, 96pp

"I know that I braid too much my own / Snapped-off perceptions of things as they come to me. / They are private and always will be."

Reading John Ashbery's poetry is like taking a highly subjective tour of someone's interior thoughts without guide or compass. Blobs of thought break off and float before our eyes. Metaphors interrupt chains of ideas. Declarations overlap one another. And everywhere language blooms, smears of color across sinuous vistas. Aside from the titular poem, which has garnered no shortage of critical acclaim, "Fear of Death" and "No Way of Knowing" stand out as enigmatic containers of consciousness, cloaked in meticulous language. Harold Bloom, a notoriously harsh critic, put Ashbery in the line that extends from Whitman through Hart Crane, and the poems in this Pulitzer Prize-winning collection affirm that pronouncement. ( )
1 vote chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
As a newcomer to poetry I feel a sort of distance and ignorance that compels me not to use the rigid star rating system. I'm groping my way through poetry and it is still dark and feels quite squishy. That being said I did enjoy Ashbery's collection. The poem "Oleum Misericordiae" combines pulp fiction scenes abutted with religious language that I adore. I was pleasantly surprised with Ashbery's sense of humor, with levity and wit, and the way he manages to create new sensations, images, words, out of language that is sometimes quite common. Perhaps my poetry will reviews will get better, I doubt it, but I would recommend reading this collection or browsing through however you do your poetry.
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
This collection of poetry was barely passable. I simply did not feel any sort of connection with each of the poems nor the overall images and themes that were being put forth. There was not enough in the poems to put me in the moment and ingrain themselves upon my psyche and consciousness. For this reason, I give it a lacklustre rating.

2 stars- not worth it. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Aug 26, 2019 |
It took me a long time to read this entire small book, because it is so rich. It's sensuous, satirical, melodic, ironic all at the same time. When I look back on other five star books, I must say this better than most of them. I guess I run a little overenthusiastic. This book does not do that. It is profound in its restraint, at the same time, expressing a whole world. ( )
1 vote mermind | Aug 25, 2013 |
Title poem comes at the end decodes (relatively) the formal intentions of all the earlier ones. He's splitting the difference between lyricism and experimental form to the detriment of both. ( )
1 vote librarianbryan | Apr 20, 2012 |
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I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.
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Revered as the greatest living American poet, John Ashbery is celebrated for his humour and versatility. This edition celebrates the 30th anniversary of the publication of this collection.

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