John (Lawrence) Ashbery 1927–
American poet, novelist, dramatist, critic, and editor.
Ashbery is often considered by critics to be a "poet's poet," because of the difficulty his poetry presents to the average reader. The typical Ashbery poem thwarts the reader through its shifting viewpoint, non sequitur associations, and hyperconscious preoccupation with the writing process itself. Poetry, or poetry making, is the predominant theme of Ashbery's work.
Throughout his career, Ashbery, like others in the New York school of poetry with which he has been associated, has been strongly influenced by developments in other artistic media, particularly abstract painting and experimental music, notably that of John Cage, who inspired the long poem, "Litany."
Ashbery received three of poetry's highest honors in 1976: a National Book Award, a National Book Critics' Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize, for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. In his recent book, Shadow Train, Ashbery adapts the tight structure of a sonnet sequence to demonstrate his elliptical poetics.
(See also CLC, Vols. 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 15; Contemporary Authors, Vols, 5-8, rev. ed.; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 5.)