John Ashbery (3144 words)

Daniel Kane (University of East Anglia)
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John Ashbery was born on 28 July 1927 in Rochester, New York, and grew up on a farm thirty miles away in Sodus, New York. From a very early age, Ashbery was shy, bookish, and intellectual. In his early poem and self-portrait “The Picture of Little J.A in a Prospect of Flowers,” Ashbery describes his appearance as

My small self in that bank of flowers:
My head among the blazing phlox
Seemed a pale and gigantic fungus.
I had a hard stare, accepting
Everything, taking nothing.

Ashbery seems to present himself here as a kind of distrustful outcast (suggested by “the hard stare”), though the lines also suggest a complicated mix of the gentle, the geeky and the learned. Such a “…

Kane, Daniel. "John Ashbery". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 24 June 2003
[, accessed 17 July 2019.]

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