John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York on July 28, 1927. He raised mostly on a farm near Lake Ontario. He graduated from Deerfield Academy before going on to a university education at Harvard—where he wrote on Wallace Stevens under the supervision of F. O. Mathiessen—and at Columbia University where he received in M.A. degree.
Early in his education, Ashbery read poets such as W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens, but his first ambition was to become a painter, and from the ages of 11 to 15 he took weekly classes at the art museum in Rochester. His first poems appeared in Poetry, which were submitted by a classmate while he was still in high school. In the mid 1950s, he moved to France, just before the publication of his second volume of poetry. There he worked as an art critic and edited the famed international review Art and Literature.
Ashbery has won nearly every major American award for poetry, beginning with the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956 (selected by W. H. Auden) for his first book of poetry, Some Trees. He has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize (for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror), the National Book Award (for the same title), the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Bollingen Prize (both for A Wave). It was in the late 1950s that critic John Bernard Myers categorized his writing as sharing traits with other rising poets such as Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, and Kenward Elmslie, all of whom would later to characterized as the first generation of a “New York School.” From the highly experimental The Tennis-Court Oath to more romantically-inspired meditative works such as Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Ashbery has remained a major force in contemporary American poetry. He has also written a novel, A Nest of Ninnies, with fellow poet James Schuyler, and wrote several plays early in his career.
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Turandot and Other Poems [art by Jane Freilicher] (New York: Tibor De Nagy Gallery, 1953); Some Trees (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1956; New York: Corinth Books, 1970; New York: Ecco Press, 1978); The Tennis Court Oath: A Book of Poems (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1962); Rivers and Mountains: (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966; New York: Ecco Press, 1977); Three Madrigals (New York: Poet’s Press, 1968); Fragment: Poem (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969); A New Spirit (New York: Adventures in Poetry, 1970); The Double Dream of Spring (New York: Dutton, 1970); Three Poems (New York: Viking Press, 1972; Harmondsworth, English, 1972; New York: Penguin Books, 1977); Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (New York: Viking Press, 1975; Manchester, England: Carcanet New Press, 1977); Framgment: Clepsydre, Poemes Francais (Paris: Seuil, 1975); Houseboat Days (New York: Penguin Books, 1977; New York: Viking Press, 1977); As We Know: Poems (New York: Viking Press, 1979; New York: Penguin, 1979); Shadow Train: Poems (New York: Viking Press, 1981); Apparitions (Northridge, California: Lord John Press, 1981); A Wave (New York: Viking Press, 1984; Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1984); April Galleons (New York: Viking, 1987); The Ice Storm (Madras, India/New York: Hanuman Books, 1987); Flow Chart (New York: Knopf, 1991); Three Books: Poems (New York: Penguin, 1993); And the Stars Were Shining (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994); Hotel Lautréamont (New York: Knopf, 1992); Girls on the Run (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999); Can You Hear, Bird (New York Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995); Wakefulness (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998); Your Name Here: Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000); Chinese Whispers (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002; Manchester, England: Carcanet, 2002); Where Shall I Wander (New York: Ecco Press, 2005)