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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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•  Using the Video
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Activities: Author Activities

John Ashbery - Teaching Tips

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  • Because Ashbery's poetry is difficult, David Perkins offers two helpful approaches to reading his work. Ashbery's early work, through the 1950s, can be read in the context of modernism because it relies on the same collage technique typical of Eliot, Pound, and Williams. Also influenced by surrealism in the 1950s, Ashbery writes poems that depend upon juxtaposition, fragmentation, swift changes in register, and syntactical disruption. His later poetry seems to share more with Stevens and Auden because it is characterized by a meditative sensibility. Interested in the movement of the mind and the impossibility of representing reality, Ashbery's poems develop new techniques to broach similar problems of the nature of reality.

  • Ashbery's use of the collage technique links him to earlier modernists. Have your students construct their own poems using magazine fragments.

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