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A collection of quotes and thoughts by John Ashbery on poetry, famous, poem, blessing, disguise, trees, life, hammer, mind, write, experiences, sayings and sad.

91 Interesting Quotes By John Ashbery That Will Inspire The Metricists

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Famous As
Poet, Writer, University teacher, Journalist

Born On
28 July 1927 AD

Born In
Rochester

Age
90

John Ashbery was a prolific American poet and writer. Besides bagging in the ‘Pulitzer Prize’ for poetry in 1976, he earned almost every major award and accolade in America for poetry. However, his works and thoughts are controversial. He was renowned for his intricacy and postmodern convolution. He once stated that he wished his thoughts and works to reach as many people as possible and not be an exclusive discourse with himself. We have compiled some notable, quotes and thoughts by John Ashbery, the man who had a larger vocabulary than many other famous poets. Read through the corpus of famous, noteworthy, meaningful and thought-provoking quotes and sayings by John Ashbery which have been collected from his writings, poems, books, thoughts, interviews, works and life.

Silly girls your heads full of boys

- John Ashbery

I'm heading for a clean-named place like Wisconsin, and mad as a jack-o'-lantern, will get there without help and nosy proclivities.

- John Ashbery

Where then shall hope and fear their objects find?

- John Ashbery

And just as there are no words for the surface, that is, No words to say what it really is, that it is not Superficial but a visible core, then there is No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience.

- John Ashbery

It is written in the Book of Usable Minutes That all things have their center in their dying....

- John Ashbery

The winter does what it can for its children.

- John Ashbery

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot be.

- John Ashbery

Will occur as time grows more open about it.

- John Ashbery

To the poet as a basement quilt, but perhaps To some reader a latticework of regrets ...

- John Ashbery

I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.

- John Ashbery

Death is a new office building filled with modern furniture, A wise thing, but which has no purpose for us.

- John Ashbery

A perfect example of the new republic's urge to drape itself with the togas of classical respectability.

- John Ashbery

I like poems you can tack all over with a hammer and there are no hollow places.

- John Ashbery

The gray glaze of the past attacks all know-how....

- John Ashbery

I often wonder if I am suffering from some mental dysfunction because of how weird and baffling my poetry seems to so many people and sometimes to me too.

- John Ashbery

I want a bedroom near the sky, an astrologer's cave Where I can fashion eclogues that are chaste and grave.

- John Ashbery

Therefore bivouac we On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by Veiled scruples, worn conundrums. Morning is Impermanent. Grab sex things, swing up Over the horizon like a boy On a fishing expedition.

- John Ashbery

Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibilities that they are founded on nothing.

- John Ashbery

I am often asked why I write, and I don't know really--I just want to.

- John Ashbery

Once a happy old man One can never change the core of things, and light burns you the harder for it.

- John Ashbery

The mind Is so hospitable, taking in everything Like boarders, and you don't see until It's all over how little there was to learn Once the stench of knowledge has dissipated.

- John Ashbery

You stupefied me. We waxed, Carnivores, late and alight In the beaded winter. All was ominous, luminous.

- John Ashbery

Until only infinity remained of beauty

- John Ashbery

Some certified nut Will try to tell you it's poetry, (It's extraordinary, it makes a great deal of sense) But watch out or he'll start with some New notion or other....

- John Ashbery

So I cradle this average violin that knows Only forgotten showtunes, but argues The possibility of free declamation anchored To a dull refrain....

- John Ashbery

And the way Though discontinuous, and intermittent, sometimes Not heard of for years at a time, did, Nonetheless, move up, although, to his surprise It was inside the house, And always getting narrower.

- John Ashbery

Sometimes a musical phrase would perfectly sum up The mood of a moment. One of those lovelorn sonatas For wind instruments was riding past on a solemn white horse. Everybody wondered who the new arrival was.

- John Ashbery

The ellipse is as aimless as that, Stretching invisibly into the future so as to reappear In our present. Its flexing is its account, Return to the point of no return.

- John Ashbery

Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!

- John Ashbery

Each servant stamps the reader with a look.

- John Ashbery

A yak is a prehistoric cabbage; of that, we can be sure.

- John Ashbery

The facts of history have been too well rehearsed.

- John Ashbery

This whole moment is the groin Of a borborygmic giant who even now Is rolling over on us in his sleep.

- John Ashbery

All beauty, resonance, integrity, Exist by deprivation or logic Of strange position.

- John Ashbery

We are prisoners of the world's demented sink. The soft enchantments of our years of innocence Are harvested by accredited experience Our fondest memories soon turn to poison And only oblivion remains in season.

- John Ashbery

Expecting rain, the profile of a day Wears its soul like a hat....

- John Ashbery

Just when I thought there wasn't room enough for another thought in my head, I had this great idea—

- John Ashbery

Things can harden meaningfully in the moment of indecision

- John Ashbery

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you, At incredible speed, traveling day and night....

- John Ashbery

Part of the strength of Pollock and Rothko's art, in fact, is this doubt as to whether art may be there at all.

- John Ashbery

What I like about music is its ability to be convincing, to carry an argument through successfully to the finish, though the terms of the argument remain unknown quantities.

- John Ashbery

I don't want to read what is going to slide down easily; there has to be some crunch, a certain amount of resilience.

- John Ashbery

The sun fades like the spreading Of a peacock's tail, as though twilight Might be read as a warning to those desperate For easy solutions.

- John Ashbery

Extreme patience and persistence are required, Yet everybody succeeds at this before being handed The surprise box lunch of the rest of his life.

- John Ashbery

Poetry is mostly hunches.

- John Ashbery

... the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east of the sun and west of the moon.

- John Ashbery

The soul establishes itself. But how far can it swim out through the eyes And still return safely to its nest?

- John Ashbery

I lost my ridiculous accent without acquiring another

- John Ashbery

The soul is not a soul, Has no secret, is small, and it fits Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.

- John Ashbery

Once you've lived in France, you don't want to live anywhere else, including France.

- John Ashbery

I always thought that writing poetry was in itself a political act.

- John Ashbery

There is the view that poetry should improve your life. I think people confuse it with the Salvation Army.

- John Ashbery

I feel that poetry is going on all the time inside, an underground stream.

- John Ashbery

In the evening Everything has a schedule, if you can find out what it is.

- John Ashbery

Life is not at all what you might think it to be A simple tale where each thing has its history It's much more than its scuffle and anything goes Both evil and good, subject to the same laws.

- John Ashbery

Not until it starts to stink does the inevitable happen.

- John Ashbery

I don't look on poetry as closed works. I feel they're going on all the time in my head and I occasionally snip off a length.

- John Ashbery

The first year was like icing. Then the cake started to show through …

- John Ashbery

In the increasingly convincing darkness The words become palpable, like a fruit That is too beautiful to eat.

- John Ashbery

What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?

- John Ashbery

I think that in the process of writing, all kinds of unexpected things happen that shift the poet away from his plan and that these accidents are really what we mean when we talk about poetry.

- John Ashbery

How many people came and stayed a certain time, Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you Like light behind windblown fog and sand Filtered and influenced by it, until no part Remains that is surely you.

- John Ashbery

And so we turn the page over. To think of starting. This is all there is.

- John Ashbery

I write with experiences in mind, but I don't write about them, I write out of them.

- John Ashbery

Reading is a pleasure, but to finish reading, to come to the blank space at the end, is also a pleasure.

- John Ashbery

The summer demands and takes away too much. /But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes

- John Ashbery

Life is beautiful. He who reads that As in the window of some distant, speeding train Knows what he wants, and what will befall.

- John Ashbery

Much that is beautiful must be discarded So that we may resemble a taller Impression of ourselves.

- John Ashbery

Alone with our madness and favorite flower We see that there really is nothing left to write about. Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things In the same way, repeating the same things over and over For love to continue and be gradually different.

- John Ashbery

I listen to music a great deal. In a way, it's trying to express things that can't be expressed in words. That's something that interests me, too. Even though I use words to express myself, I am trying to, it seems to me, get beyond that.

- John Ashbery

I would like to please the reader, and I think that surprise has to be an element of this, and that may necessitate a certain amount of teasing. To shock the reader is something else again. That has to be handled with great care if you're not going to alienate and hurt him, and I'm firmly against that, just as I disapprove of people who dress with that in mind--dye their hair blue and stick safety pins through their noses and so on.

- John Ashbery

One listens to a piece of great music, say, and feels deeply moved by it, and wants to put this feeling into words, but it can't be put into words. That's what - the music has already supplied the meaning, and words will just be superfluous after that. But it's that kind of verbal meaning that can't be verbalized that I try to get at in poetry.

- John Ashbery

One can lose a good idea by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides it knows nothing of, would not recognize itself in, yet when the negotiations are terminated, speaks in the acts of that progenitor, and does recognize itself, is grateful for not having done so earlier.

- John Ashbery

And we may be led, then, upward through more Powerful forms of poetry, past columns With peeling posters on them, to the country of indifference. Meanwhile if the swell diapasons, blooms Unhappily and too soon, the little people are nonetheless real.

- John Ashbery

Until, accustomed to disappointments, you can let yourself rule and be ruled by these strings or emanations that connect everything together, you haven't fully exorcised the demon of doubt that sets you in motion like a rocking horse that cannot stop rocking.

- John Ashbery

But always and sometimes questioning the old modes And the new wondering, the poem, growing up through the floor, Standing tall in tubers, invading and smashing the ritual Parlor, demands to be met on its own terms now, Now that the preliminary negotiations are at last over.

- John Ashbery

We might realize that the present moment may be one of an eternal or sempiternal series of moments, all of which will resemble it because, in some ways, they are the present, and won't in other ways, because the present will be the past by that time.

- John Ashbery

The evening light was like honey in the trees When you left me and walked to the end of the street Where the sunset abruptly ended. The wedding-cake drawbridge lowered itself To the fragile forget-me-not flower. You climbed aboard. Burnt horizons suddenly paved with golden stones, Dreams I had, including suicide, Puff out the hot-air balloon now. It is bursting, it is about to burst

- John Ashbery

If you need a certain vitality you can only supply it yourself, or there comes a point, anyway, when no one's actions but your own seem dramatically convincing and justifiable in the plot that the number of your days concocts.

- John Ashbery

It never seems to occur to anyone that each reader is different, and that even those who might be said to resemble each other will each bring an individual set of experiences and references to their reading, and interpret and misinterpret it according to these.

- John Ashbery

The term ignorant is indeed perhaps an overstatement, implying as it does that something is known somewhere, whereas in reality we are not even sure of this: we in fact cannot aver with any degree of certainty that we are ignorant. Yet this is not so bad; we have at any rate kept our open-mindedness -- that, at least, we may be sure that we have -- and are not in any danger, or so it seems, of freezing into the pious attitudes of those true spiritual bigots whose faces are turned toward eternity and who therefore can see nothing.

- John Ashbery

Just keep playing, mastering as you do the step Into disorder this one meant. Don't you see It's all we can do? Meanwhile, great fires Arise, as of haystacks aflame. The dial has been set And that's ominous, but all your graciousness in living Conspires with it, now that this is our home: A place to be from, and have people ask about.

- John Ashbery

How funny your name would be if you could follow it back to where the first person thought of saying it, naming himself that, or maybe some other persons thought of it and named that person. It would be like following a river to its source, which would be impossible. Rivers have no source.

- John Ashbery

It is because everything is relative That we shall never see in that sphere of pure wisdom and Entertainment much more than groping shadows of an incomplete Former existence so close it burns like the mouth that Closes down over all your effort like the moment Of death

- John Ashbery

Its a bit mad. Too bad, I mean, that getting to know each just for a fleeting second Must be replaced by unperfect knowledge of the featureless whole Like some pocket history of the world, so general As to constitute a sob or wail

- John Ashbery

Then let yourself love all that you take delight in Accept yourself whole, accept the heritage That shaped you and is passed on from age to age Down to your entity. Remain mysterious; Rather than be pure, accept yourself as numerous.

- John Ashbery

My feeling is that most political poetry is preaching to the choir, and that the people who are going to make the political changes in our lives are not the people who read poetry, unfortunately. Poetry not specifically aimed at political revolution, though, is beneficial in moving people toward that kind of action, as well as other kinds of action. A good poem makes me want to be active on as many fronts as possible.

- John Ashbery

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.

- John Ashbery

Poetry comes to me out of thin air or out of my unconscious mind. It's sort of the way dreams come to us and the way that we get knowledge from them, through television, old movies, which I watch a lot of. Lines of dialogue suddenly seem to be part of a poem.

- John Ashbery

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you, At incredible speed, traveling day and night, Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes. But will he know where to find you, Recognize you when he sees you, Give you the thing he has for you?

- John Ashbery

The promise of learning is a delusion.... Tomorrow would alter the sense of what had already been learned, that the learning process is extended in this way, so that from this standpoint none of us ever graduates from college, for time is an emulsion, and probably thinking not to grow up is the brightest kind of maturity for us, right now at any rate.

- John Ashbery