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Other Traditions

Other Traditions

John Ashbery

ISBN 9780674006645

Publication date: 12/01/2001

One of the greatest living poets in English here explores the work of six writers he often finds himself reading "in order to get started" when writing, poets he turns to as "a poetic jump-start for times when the batteries have run down." Among those whom John Ashbery reads at such times are John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Raymond Roussel, John Wheelwright, Laura Riding, and David Schubert. Less familiar than some, under Ashbery's scrutiny these poets emerge as the powerful but private and somewhat wild voices whose eccentricity has kept them from the mainstream--and whose vision merits Ashbery's efforts, and our own, to read them well.

Deeply interesting in themselves, Ashbery's reflections on these poets of "another tradition" are equally intriguing for what they tell us about Ashbery's own way of reading, writing, and thinking. With its indirect clues to his work and its generous and infectious appreciation of a remarkable group of poets, this book conveys the passion, delight, curiosity, and insight that underlie the art and craft of poetry for writer and reader alike. Even as it invites us to discover the work of poets in Ashbery's other tradition, it reminds us of Ashbery's essential place in our own.


  • One of our foremost (and most difficult) living poets...[Ashbery] has always been reluctant to offer exegesis of his twisting, witty, but obscure verse. Called upon to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton lectures, he does the next best thing, discussing his interest in six minor poets who have spurred his own writing...Ashbery finds in them [a] common denominator:...each of them is someone for whom the mere act of versifying is its own end, with the flash of language in motion often taking precedence over 'meaning'--a quality that could fairly be ascribed to Ashbery himself...An impressive performance by a central figure in modern American poetry.

    —Kirkus Reviews


  • John Ashbery has published more than twenty books of poetry, including Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and Flow Chart, and is the winner of every major American poetry prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s Robert Frost Medal.

Book Details

  • 176 pages
  • 5 x 7-1/2 inches
  • Harvard University Press