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John Ashbery has died | 04-Sep-17

John Ashbery, winner of the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, has died age 90 at his home in Hudson, New York. His husband, David Kermani, has said that his death was from natural causes.

Ashbery was recognised as one of the greatest 20th-century American poets. Lauded as a Nobel nominee, he won countless prizes in addition to his Pulitzer; the National Book Award, the Yale Younger Poets Prize (for his first collection, Some Trees, in 1956), the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Griffin International Award, and a MacArthur "Genius" Grant.

His command of the form and language created a "verbal canvas" (according to Fred Moramarco in the Journal of Modern Literature) upon which Ashbery was free to apply his unique, often brilliant, often baffling, form of expressionism. His voice as a poet was truly his own, despite influences from the Romantic tradition, the New York School of Poets, and French Surrealism as well as time spent as an art critic in France in the 1950s and 60s.

Wordplay; humour; wisdom; high illusion to pop culture references: John Ashbery's style was fluid, often open-ended, multi-phonic and constantly in flux. He resisted any kind of arbitrary rules or order within the form. Even his biggest fans agree that his poetry is often challenging to read.

Born in Rochester, New York in 1927, Ashbery was started on his poetry career at boarding school when a classmate submitted his work (without his knowledge) to Poetry magazine. He went on to be prolific, publishing over 30 books since the 1950s including poetry, translations, essays and a novel. In fact he so fully accumulated words in his mind that he once told the Associated Press that he rarely revised a poem once he wrote it down.

Read more about John Ashbery's life on The Guardian and Poetry Foundation





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