The second volume of John Ashbery’s collected poems is a tribute

History will be a kind judge

John Ashbery: Collected Poems 1991–2000. The Library of America; 838 pages; $45.

THE first living poet to have his work published by the Library of America was John Ashbery, and this is the second volume of his collected poems. He died last September, about a month after he turned 90. So this book serves as a dual celebration, memorialising his sprawling life and his many accomplishments.

The inaugural volume appeared in 2008, and it contains his first 12 books of poetry. This second volume compiles the seven collections—including Ashbery’s two book-length poems from the 1990s, “Flow Chart” and “Girls on the Run”. Like the first book, it brings together a wealth of uncollected poems that answer the inevitable question of what a B-side Ashbery poem might look like. Even in the minor poems in his collections, the stamp of his voice is always present.

In the 1990s the constellation of…Continue reading

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