Karin Sabrina Roffman
- Senior Lecturer
- Yale University
A Biography of John Ashbery’s Early Life and Art
Although American poet John Ashbery (b. 1927) did not publish his first official volume of poetry until he was almost 30, he knew by the age of 13 that he would become an artist. This project, the first critical biography of his early life, builds a detailed portrait of Ashbery’s intensely productive childhood near Rochester, New York, from previously unknown material—including letters, more than 1000 pages of childhood diaries, and several notebooks full of juvenilia. Together, these materials provide an astonishing record of the development of a young poet’s mind as he actively shaped his poetic voice.
The Story of Next Week: John Ashbery’s Middle and Later Years
This critical biography of American poet John Ashbery (1927-), offers a portrait of an artist who discovered his rich and varied imaginative universe from the materials of ordinary life. Drawing on private sources—including personal letters, diaries, and notebooks of poem fragments—as well as hundreds of interviews with Ashbery, his friends, and his colleagues, and more than a decade of archival research and critical work on Ashbery’s manuscripts and collections, this project demonstrates the poet’s unrelenting drive to innovate language in order to express, with increasing precision and humor, what he has called “the experience of experience." This is the first biography to secure the permission and support of Ashbery and his partner David Kermani.