"John Ashbery and You" approaches Ashbery's critically neglected recent poetry with an ear to his use of the supremely elastic pronoun "you" and an eye toward his construction of his books as books. Together, these devices produce effects new to Ashbery's oeuvre and offer readers new ways "in" to his work. "John Ashbery and You" argues that starting with "April Galleons" (1987), and reaching an apex in "Your Name Here" (2000), the poet has been paying increasingly keen and affectionate attention to his readers. Vincent tracks these techniques but above all offers his readers tools to reapproach a dauntingly difficult body of work.Some critics have suggested that Ashbery is producing books too quickly for criticism to keep up or that the later books represent, as Vincent summarizes it, "a kind of logorrhea...and therefore don't really register as separate events as much as episodic eruptions of one big volcano which is the Later Ashbery." Vincent contends that critics are not keeping up with Ashbery not so much because it is all of a piece, but rather because his work varies so much from volume to volume.
Each of the volumes from the latter part of Ashbery's career represents an individual and different poetic project, depending precisely on the unit of the book to produce its effects. By showing us that the entry point to Ashbery is not any given individual poem within a volume, but the entire volume, Vincent gives us a new and productive approach to reading the recent work of one of our most challenging poets.
John Emil Vincent is a poet and critic. He teaches English and American Studies at Concordia University. He is the editor of "After Spicer: Critical Essays," and the author of "Queer Lyrics," which was selected as a "Choice" Outstanding Academic Title.
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