One of Ashbery’s most acclaimed and beloved collections since Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, filled with his signature wit and generous intelligence
The poems in John Ashbery’s award-winning 1984 collection A Wave address the impermanence of language, the nature of mortality, and the fluidity of consciousness—matters of life and death that in other hands might run the risk of sentimentality. For John Ashbery, however, these considerations provide an opportunity to display his prodigious poetic gifts: the unerring ear for our evolving modern language and its ever-expanding universe of meanings, the fierce eye trained on glimmers underwater, and the wry humor that runs through observations both surprising and familiar. As the poem “The Path to the White Moon” has it, “We know what is coming, that we are moving / Dangerously and gracefully / Toward the resolution of time / Blurred but alive with many separate meanings / Inside this conversation.” The long title poem of A Wave, which closes the book, is considered one of Ashbery’s most distinguished works, praised by critic Helen Vendler for its “genius for a free and accurate American rendition of very elusive inner feelings, and especially for transitive states between feelings.”
Winner of both the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Bollingen Prize, this book is one to be read, reread, and remembered.