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Other Traditions (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures


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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.


This engaging set of essays by Ashbery, the much-celebrated American poet, was originally a set of lectures at Harvard. The essays are not hermetic. They explore andÄwith great easeÄreveal the lives and work of six writers: John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Raymond Roussel, John Wheelwright, Laura Riding, and David Schubert. The first three essays gently begin binding together an abundance of motives for writing, from poetic visions and intoxications to theatrical dreams. History and geography are shown to be important but not everything. Poverty, madness, and sex are integral but not over-emphasized. Where others have deconstructed and codified, Ashbery is intimate and revealing, be the subject England, Romanticism, Brooklyn, Marxism, Nashville, or Modernism. In each essay, he attempts to grasp and convey the strange originality of each writer's work, providing a "user-friendly" set of illuminating commentaries about the legacy and dignity of writing and the nature of truth and poetry. For all academic and larger public libraries.ÄScott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"[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

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