A Wave (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
John Ashbery is not a new voice in the poetry world: This is his tenth volume of poems. He is no stranger to honors: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) won for him the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Wave can only enhance what is already an outstanding reputation. It has already won for him the Bollingen Prize for Poetry.
Most of the forty-four poems printed here, including the title poem, have appeared previously in various journals and anthologies. It is entirely possible, and perhaps useful, to evaluate this splendid collection without specific references to the school with which Ashbery is associated, the New York Poets, or to the influences usually remarked: the French Symbolists, the Surrealists, the Dadaists, the American abstract expressionist painters.
Ashbery’s work of recent years (and the poems here are certainly an example) has become more accessible, but it seems likely that his complexity was overstated in the first place. His technique—syntactical balance, minimal imagery, alliteration, fairly heavy use of the iambic line, complex but scannable sentences varied with short sentences or phrases, for example—is less disjointed and abstruse than that of many of the early moderns. In a few poems, the pronoun with no antecedent is finally unreadable,...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Book World. XIV, May 20, 1984, p. 6.
Christian Science Monitor. LXXVI, October 5, 1984, p. B4.
Georgia Review. XXXVIII, Fall, 1984, p. 628.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 21, 1984, p. 2.
The Nation. CCXXXIX, September 1, 1984, p. 146.
The New York Review of Books. XXXI, June 14, 1984, p. 32.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, June 17, 1984, p. 8.
Newsweek. CIV, July 16, 1984, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXV, April 13, 1984, p. 57.
Quill and Quire. L, July, 1984, p. 77.
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