December 31, 2007
John Ashbery Reads 'Composition' and Other Poems
John Ashbery is the author of more than 30 volumes of poetry, criticism and essays, including most recently, "A Worldly Country" and "Selected Later Poems." He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, and his body of work has led many to consider him one of the nation's most important writers of the last half century.
Ashbery was born in 1927 in Rochester, N.Y. He received a B.A. from Harvard in 1949 and an MA in 1951 from Columbia. As a young man in the 1950s, Ashbery along with friends like Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch formed what came to be known as the "New York School" of poetry.
Ashbery's first book, "Some Trees" (1956), was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series; "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (1975) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award; and "A Wave" (1984) won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Since 1990, Ashbery has been Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Literature and Languages at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. Ashbery also has taught at Brooklyn College-CUNY, was art critic for New York Magazine and Newsweek, and was executive editor of Art News.
In this extended interview, John Ashbery talks to Jeffrey Brown about discovering poetry at a young age, and reads and discusses his poem, "A Perfect Hat."
John Ashbery reads four of his poems in this web exclusive: