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Poet John Ashbery Dies at 90



According to The New York Times: John Ashbery, a poet whose teasing, delicate, soulful lines made him one of the most influential figures of late-20th and early-21st-century American literature, died on Sunday at his home in Hudson, N.Y. He was 90.

His husband, David Kermani, confirmed his death.

Mr. Ashbery’s early work was mostly known in avant-garde circles, but his arrival as a major figure in American literature was signaled in 1976, when he became the only writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the same year, for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” The title poem of the volume is a 15-page meditation on the painting of the same name by Parmigianino, the Italian Renaissance artist.

“No one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time,” the critic Harold Bloom, an early advocate, once wrote. “He is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.”

Mr. Ashbery was originally associated with the New York school of poetry of the 1950s and ’60s, joining Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Frank O’Hara and others as they reveled in the currents of modernism, surrealism and Abstract Expressionism then animating creative life in the city, drawing from and befriending artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Jane Freilicher.

But while other eminent poets of his generation became widely known for social activism (Adrienne Rich and Gary Snyder, for example) or forays into fiction (James Dickey) or the details of their own harrowing lives (Sylvia Plath), Mr. Ashbery was known primarily for one thing: writing poetry.

John Ashbery was born on July 28, 1927, in Rochester and grew up in Sodus in Wayne County, where his father was a fruit farmer. One of his most meaningful early relationships was with his maternal grandfather, Henry Lawrence, who was a well-known physicist and professor at the University of Rochester. Mr. Ashbery spent long periods of time in his grandfather’s large, dark Victorian house, where he discovered Dickens, Eliot and Thackeray. A poet to be remembered for sure.

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