No figure looms so large in American poetry over the past 50 years as John Ashbery. Yet he has never been easy to place. Each of his first 12 books, from “Some Trees” in 1956 to “A Wave” in 1984, was in some way different from what other poets were doing and from whatever Ashbery himself had just done. Critics celebrated him. But they all celebrated a different poet. Was he a romantic in the tradition of John Keats and Wallace Stevens, or an experimentalist like Gertrude Stein? A distinctively gay poet, or a writer who avoids autobiographical reference? A connoisseur of moods, or an abstract thinker concerned with identity and the nature of art?
more from the NY Times here.