John Ashbery Poems

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John Ashbery
Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York and raised on a farm near Lake Ontario; his brother died when they were children. Ashbery was educated at Deerfield Academy. At Deerfield, Ashbery read such poets as W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens, and began writing poetry; one of his poems was actually published in Poetry Magazine, though under the name of a classmate who had submitted it without Ashbery's knowledge or permission. His first ambition was to be a painter. From the age of eleven until fifteen he took weekly classes at the art museum in Rochester. Ashbery graduated in 1949 with an A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College, where he was a member of the Harvard Advocate, the university's literary magazine, and the Signet Society. He wrote his senior thesis on the poetry of W.H. Auden. At Harvard he befriended fellow writers Kenneth Koch, Barbara Epstein, V.R. Lang, Frank O'Hara, and Edward Gorey, and was a classmate of Robert Creeley, Robert Bly, and Peter Davison. Ashbery went on to study briefly at New York University, and received an M.A. from Columbia in 1951. From the mid-1950s, when he received a Fulbright Fellowship, through 1965, he lived in France. He served as the art editor for the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune, while also translating potboilers and contemporary French literature. During this period he lived with the French poet Pierre Martory. After returning to the United States, he continued his career as an art critic, for New York and Newsweek magazines, while also serving on the editorial board of ARTNews until 1972. Several years later, he began a stint as an editor at Partisan Review, serving from 1976 to 1980.

the instruction manual
As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction... [read poem]
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