John Ashbery born 28 July 1927
John Ashbery is an American poet who has won nearly every major American award for poetry and is recognised as one of America's most important, though still controversial, poets.
Ashbery was born in 1927 near Rochester, New York. He is author of more than fifteen books of poems, beginning with Turandot and Other Poems in 1953, and is considered one of the leading contemporary American poets. His works range in length from two-line poems and haiku to the book-length Flow Chart.
Ashbery is often referred to as a philosophical poet. He is clearly concerned with the nature of language and its connection to thought. He is also concerned more specifically with the nature of poetry and its boundaries in the second half of the twentieth century, as well as with the relationship between poet and reader.
Although Ashbery's poems often have the feel of autobiography, he does not include his own life in his poetry in a recognisable way. His claim to being a gay poet depends more on his friendship with Frank O'Hara and his inclusion in O'Hara's poems than it does on anything in his own writing.
The critic and poet Richard Howard makes a distinction between "homosexual writers" and "writers who are homosexual." Although most Ashbery criticism places him in the latter category, ignoring questions of sexual preference either in his life or the poems, there have been a few attempts to read Ashbery as a gay poet.
Despite the lack of explicit gay content, for example, his work shares concerns with other late twentieth-century gay writing. Ashbery probes the nature of identity, how a person constructs his own identity and that of others, and the degree to which that identity depends on the culture around us.
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