Other Traditions

Other Traditions

Paperback Charles Eliot Norton Lectures

By (author) John Ashbery

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 191mm x 12mm | 190g
  • Publication date: 1 December 2001
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 067400664X
  • ISBN 13: 9780674006645
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Sales rank: 423,900

Product description

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 Wheelright, 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.

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Author information

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 the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal.

Review quote

"[Ashbery] has chosen [the six poets] for the inconsistency in the quality of their work, often due to turbulent lives, and often the cause of their obscurity. But he unearths their shining moments, examples of their best, most lasting poems. He untangles their lives from their work, their obscurity from their talent and their importance to us from their obscurity." -Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review; "Other Traditions is an entertaining and shrewd little book. To begin with, the life stories of the six poets he discusses are all amazing. Ashbery is an accomplished raconteur... The lectures also provide abundant hints about Ashbery's own method. As he readily admits, poets when writing about other poets frequently write about themselves." -Charles Simic, New York Review of Books

Back cover copy

"Clare's modernity is a kind of nakedness of vision that we are accustomed to, at least in America, from the time of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, down to Robert Lowell and Allen Ginsberg. Like these poets, Clare grabs hold of you ... tell[s] you about himself, about the things that are closest and dearest to him ... It is like ... 'instant intimacy.'""What then are we to do with a body of poetry whose author warns us that we have very little chance of understanding it? ... Why, misread it, of course, if it seems to merit reading ... This is what happens to any poetry: no poem can ever hope to produce the exact sensation in even one reader that the poet intended; all poetry is written with this understanding on the part of the poet and reader; if it can't stand the test of what Harold Bloom names 'misprision, ' then we leave it to pass on to something else"."And why, anyway, should there be but one reading? Once after a poetry reading, I was asked one of those un-questions that people ask poets: 'Do you make up your ideas or do they just come to you?' I was so busy wishing I knew the answer that I forgot to ask why both couldn't be the case, and several other things as well. 'The Visitor' could as well be a parable of Eden, of Christ accepting the inevitability of martyrdom, or it could be only a story whose meaning is self-contained ... The central axis of ambiguity is Schubert's own".

Flap copy

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 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.