Poet John Ashbery, seen here in his New York apartment in 2008, is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest poets. He died at the age of 90 on Sunday, at his home in Hudson, N.Y.
John Ashbery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet known for his surrealist, confounding works, has died at age 90.
The poet died early Sunday of natural causes, confirms Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the publicist for a new Ashbery biography.
His 1975 collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, what many consider his masterpiece, won a rare trifecta of the literary world: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle prize.
While his enigmatic poems confounded literary critics and peers, his experimental style reinvented literature for a generation of writers.
Ashbery’s first book puzzled legendary poet W.H. Auden. The New York Times says, when Auden selected Ashbery as the Yale Younger Poets Prize winner for Some Trees (1956), Auden “confessed that he had not understood a word of it.” Nevertheless, he said, Ashbery “was one of the writers who most formed my language as a poet.”
In fact, Ashbery joked to The Associated Press in 2008 that, were he to verbify his last name, it would mean “to confuse the hell out of people.”
His poetry, Ashbery once told the London Times, is fluctuant because life itself is: “I don’t find any direct statements in life. My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness come to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation. My poetry is disjunct, but then so is life.”