The great inventor of a style fluid enough to reflect our uncertain times, a helpless symbol of those times, an incomprehensible hoax, a clear-as-glass poet of loneliness and dejection, the greatest living Surrealist, the last Romantic, a frequent influence on poets much younger than he: since 1975, when his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won almost all the awards a book of American poems could win, readers and reviewers have bestowed on John Ashbery all these labels. Meanwhile Ashbery – born in 1927 – has gone on writing his poems, and writing them faster than most of us can read them. A Worldly Country is his eleventh book of new verse in twenty years; Notes from the Air selects from the previous ten, from April Galleons (1987) to Where Shall I Wander (2005), beginning where his last Selected Poems stopped. Together, the new books portray a sad decline – but not, by any means, a decline in Ashbery’s imaginative powers. Rather, their wealth of poems portrays the decline to which all of us are subject, the fact – realized over and over in any life – that we will lose all the people and things we love, that they must, as we must, grow old and die.
more from the TLS here.