JOHN ASHBERY QUOTES

American poet (1927- )

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

JOHN ASHBERY, "Frontispiece"

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Tags: beginning


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

JOHN ASHBERY, "A Last World"

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Tags: death


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

JOHN ASHBERY, "A Last World"

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Tags: old age


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

JOHN ASHBERY, "37 Haiku"

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Tags: past


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

JOHN ASHBERY, International Herald Tribune, Oct. 2, 1989

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Tags: poetry


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

JOHN ASHBERY, Houseboat Poems

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Tags: words


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

JOHN ASHBERY, interview, The Paris Review, winter 1983

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Tags: writing


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

JOHN ASHBERY, "More Pleasant Adventures"

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All things seem mention of themselves
And the names which stem from them branch out to other referents.
Hugely, spring exists again.

JOHN ASHBERY, "Grand Galop"

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Tags: spring


Did I say that? One says so many things, and the problem is they all get written down.

JOHN ASHBERY, Q&A at Bard College, 2005

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And the truth is cold, as a giant's knee
Will seem cold.

JOHN ASHBERY, "A Last World"

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Tags: truth


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

JOHN ASHBERY, "Illustration"

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Paris is "the city," isn't it, and I am a lover of cities. It can be experienced much more pleasantly and conveniently than any other city I know. It's so easy to get around on the metro, and so interesting when you get there--each arrondissement is like a separate province, with its own capital and customs and even costumes.

JOHN ASHBERY, interview, The Paris Review, winter 1983

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Tags: Paris


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, The Double Dream of Spring

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Tags: learning


The music brought us what it seemed
We had long desired, but in a form
So rarefied there was no emptiness of sensation.

JOHN ASHBERY, Some Trees

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Tags: music


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, "Houseboat Days"

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The facts of history have been too well rehearsed.

JOHN ASHBERY, "The System", Three Poems

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Tags: history


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, interview, The Paris Review, winter 1983

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Tags: present


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

JOHN ASHBERY, Self-Portrait in a convex Mirror

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Tags: night


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, interview, The Paris Review, winter 1983

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