John Ashbery: Something Close to Music - Late Art Writings, Poems, and Playlists
David Zwirner Books, 2022, Softcover, 184 pages, 18 × 10 cm
Contributions by Mónica de la Torre, Jeffrey Lependorf
This book places poetry by Ashbery, gathered from his later collections, in conversation with a selection of contemporaneous art writing. In addition, as Ashbery loved music and listened to it while writing, the “playlists” here present samplings of music from these same years, culled from his own library of recordings.
Ashbery’s poetry is frequently described as ekphrastic, though, rather than writing a poem “based on” or “inspired” by the content of an artwork or piece of music, he engages with how the experience of seeing it and the artistic strategies employed offer ways of thinking about it and through it. Many observations from Ashbery’s art writing also provide keys to how we might read his poetry. Many recordings he listened to feature contemporary classical works that emphasize complex textures, disparate sounds, and disjunct phrases—qualities which are mimicked in his poetry.