PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Jen Schmitt on Ekphrasis Rachel Hadas on Text and Pandemic Kirsty Gunn Essaying two Jee Leong Koh Palinodes in the Voice of my Dead Father Maureen Mclane Correspondent Breeze
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

In a Glass Darkly F.T. Prince

When I read Some Trees, which John Ashbery sent me in 1956, I had seen very little of his poetry, and though I was impressed by the sophistication and elegance of the book, I felt more or less baffled throughout. As I made my comments, I knew they were inadequate, and I could do little better as he continued to send me his books, in those years when he was living in Paris and when we sometimes met in London. I read him assiduously, and after some time became involved to the point of thinking I might learn something from him. In fact I have never been able to. Eventually, as the poetry moved towards its maturity and efflorescence, in The Skaters, for example, and Three Poems, I could not fail to see that he had extraordinary powers, and remember telling him so - though I suppose he hardly needed to be told.

By this time I have more confidence in my impressions of his work than I had thirty or forty years ago, and it seems worth trying to make some general observations.

I see his writing now as deeply American, in what has notoriously been one of the central modes of twentieth century poetry - the Franco-American. Modernism announced itself, in English, with a reaching-out from native American experimentation to European, mainly French, innovations. Pound's short-lived attempt to promote 'Imagisme' was a reflection of the general modernist acceptance of France as a source ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image