Carcanet pays tribute to poet John Ashbery

Carcanet pays tribute to poet John Ashbery

Independent poetry publisher Carcanet Press has paid tribute to poet John Ashbery who has died aged 90.

Ashbery died of natural causes at his home Hudson, New York on Sunday (3rd September).

Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927 and grew up on a farm in the nearby village of Sodus. He wrote his first poem at the age of eight. Carcanet has published Ashbery since 1977, starting with Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. In the years that followed, he became one of Carcanet's "cornerstones", said publisher Michael Schmidt.

The press has published almost 40 books by Ashbery, including his collaborations, fiction, essays, poems and translations. It will publish Ashbery's Collected Poems: 1901-2000 in January 2018.

Schmidt praised Ashbery's work for "shaping and reshaping language and the ways it makes various worlds real", and added that he "loved poetry that could not be paraphrased".

"His sense of English is stalked and sometimes re-routed by his loving knowledge of French poetry and prose, its different precisions", Schmidt said. "He lived in Paris as an art critic and editor, wrote in French and translated from it. His cityscapes are not always New York. He tunes in to Americas and Europes and Orients, sometimes in a single poem. Almost my favourite of his poems is ‘The Instruction Manual’ which envisions a whole Mexican city while the speaker is supposed to be completing a translation of the eponymous manual. Evocation as evasion, evasion as a way of getting in to the real. Wallace Stevens is behind him, but certainly not Pound; and Eliot only obliquely. His is a different modernism, French-American, or Continental-American, not Anglo-American or Anglo-Irish."

Schmidt added: "John Ashbery’s Carcanet and PN Review friends and readers will miss him, but we are lucky to have such a wealth of writing to take forward with us."

Ashbery is survived by his husband David Kermani.