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The Tennis Court Oath: A Book of Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Classics) [Paperback]

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Item description for The Tennis Court Oath: A Book of Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Classics) by John Ashbery...

John Ashbery writes like no one else among contemporary American poets. In the construction of his intricate patterns, he uses words much as the contemporary painter uses form and color- words painstakingly chosen as conveyors of precise meaning, not as representations of sound. These linked in unexpected juxtapositions, at first glance unrelated and even anarchic, in the end create by their clashing interplay a structure of dazzling brilliance and strong emotional impact. From this preoccupation arises a poetry that passes beyond conventional limits into a highly individual realm of effectiveness, one that may be roughly likened to the visual world of Surrealist painting. Some will find Mr. Ashbery's work difficult, even forbidding; but those who are sensitive to new directions in ideas and the arts will discover here much to quicken and delight them.

A 35th anniversary edition of classic work from a celebrated American poet who has received the Pulitzer Prize, the national Book Award, and the national Book Critics Circle Award. John Ashbery's second book, The Tennis Court Oaths, first published by Wesleyan in 1962, remains a touchstone of contemporary avant-garde poetry.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wesleyan
Pages   94
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 6.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 1977
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819510130  
ISBN13  9780819510136  

Availability  0 units.

More About John Ashbery

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Pulitzer Prize winning poet John Ashbery has translated many French writers, including Alfred Jarry, Pierre Reverdy, and Raymond Roussel. In 2011 he was awarded the National Book Foundation s Lifetime Achievement Award.

John Ashbery currently resides in New York, in the state of New York. John Ashbery was born in 1927.

John Ashbery has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Penguin Poets

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( A ) > Ashbery, John
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Single Authors > United States
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > 20th Century
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Tennis Court Oath: A Book of Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Classics)?

When it's good, it's very very good. But when it's bad...  Jun 28, 2004
John Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath (Wesleyan, 1962)

Reading Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath probably doesn't rank high on the list of many people's favorite things to do. But reading it while you've immersed yourself in a glut of Charles Simic is an especially bad idea. Simic is the quintessential surrealist writing in English today; Ashbery is sort of a weird, fuzzy cross between surrealism, dada, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E whose work is, by turns, incomprehensibly unreadable and quite good.

I opened the book to a random page and start quoting from the top left...

"You often asked me after hours
The glass pinnacle, its upkeep and collapse
Knowing that if we were in a barn
Straw panels would... Confound it
Te arboretum is bursting with jasmine and lilac
And all I can smell here is newsprint..."
("The New Realism")

Anyone who wants to take a stab at explaining that, by all means, go ahead. I cannot help but compare this stuff (as I did in a recent Jackson Mac Low review) to the work of John M. Bennett, which is completely nonsensical but SOUNDS like it shouldn't be. Reading John M. Bennett is like understanding how to read and pronounce a completely foreign language without understanding a single word; even when you have no idea what's going on, if you read it out loud, you can still do so smoothly and put inflections in all the right places to make it sound great. With this, the reader is reduced to stumbling through, trying to grasp some semblance of meaning in order to make it scan. (And we wonder why people ask "what does it mean?" when confronted with poetry. lord save us.)

But when Ashbery is on, he is quite on, and his work takes on a spectre of imagism; not enough to make the book worth buying, mind you, but enough to make it worth borrowing from the library. The more lucid sections of "Europe," for example, where Ashbery dispenses with the easy, wannabe dadaism and gets down to his subject (Beryl Markham), give the reader an idea of why Ashbery, not too long before this, was selected by the Yale Series of Younger Poets. But, as with many poetry collections, you wade through some swine to get to the pearls. In this case, they're often in the same poems. ** ½

The Unbroken Oath: Ashbery's Neglected Masterpiece  Apr 27, 2000
Wesleyan University Press has reissued a volume in its series of "classics" which deserves a place on the shelves of everyone interested in poetry in the last forty-five years. THE TENNIS COURT OATH is a series of experiments in poetry which are as daring and fresh today as they were in 1962, when the book (Ashbery's second) first appeared. Though the book contains some often anthologized pieces--"Faust" and "They Dream Only of America" for instance--the book reprints the less familiar "America," "Rain," and the 110 part poem "Europe." It is these more obscure poems that seem to offer the best glimpse of the possibilities of Ashbery as a poet as well as the possibilities for language and poetry in general. Reading these poems in the light of Ashbery's interceding success as a poet, the book emerges as a kind of rough blueprint for his career. No one who knows Ashbery's poem "Litany" (in AS WE KNOW, Viking, 1979) can look at the parallel text of "To the Same Degree" in OATH and not see it as the fledgling form of the later work. Even "Europe," which the author himself admits was a kind of failure, demonstrates the daring search for a method of communication which Ashbery described (in 1962)as "perhaps a new kind of poetry which tries to use words in a new use words abstractly as an abtract painter would use paint....This has nothing to do with 'Imagism' or using words because of their sound--words are inseparable from their meaning and cannot be said to exist apart from it. My aim is to give the meaning free play and the fullest possible range [in an] attempt to get a greater, more complete kind of realism." "Europe," if it is a failure, is a brilliant one, saturated with the possibilities of language which dares to venture, as T. S. Eliot put it, at "the frontiers of consciousness, where meaning fails but feelings still persist." It is that sense of experimentation, of the avante-garde and the seemingly limitless possibilities for the language of poetry that the complete text of OATH, now reprinted, captures and presents to the reader. Those already familiar with Ashbery's work will find the book an indispensible high-point in his canon, those unfamiliar with Ashbery will see a different kind of poetry, rife with new ideas and new hopes for relating language to the world it seeks to describe and of which it is part. John Ashbery's TENNIS COURT OATH, like his SELECTED POEMS (Viking, 1985) is simply a must for any serious reader of late Twentieth-century and contemporary poetry.

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