David Herd

John Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror is home to a handful of the most accomplished short lyrics in American poetry. In various ways each of, say, 'Worsening Situation', 'As You Came from the Holy Land', 'Grand Galop', 'Hop o' My Thumb', 'Mixed Feelings' and 'The One Thing That Can Save America' is a superbly adroit articulation of the poet's cultural situation. Each finds Ashbery at the top of his form, and in other circumstances each would have attracted much attention. Appearing as they do, however, alongside Ashbery's most famous poem they have been largely (though not, of course, completely) overlooked. They are not the only ones. For many readers (though not, of course, all), 'John Ashbery' equals 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror', the rest of his often dazzling oeuvre being eclipsed by a poem which the poet himself has described as the product of 'three months of not very inspired writing' (Shoptaw, 1994, p. 174). The measure of this eclipse is the sheer number of critical articles on Ashbery which address themselves exclusively to 'Self-Portrait', tying the poet to his hit poem in a way that Eliot was never tied to The Waste Land, Stevens was never tied to 'An Ordinary Evening in New Haven' and Auden was never tied to anything. To understand why Ashbery should have become so identified with a single — albeit genuinely impressive — poem (the poet's distancing tactics notwithstanding) one needs clearly to appreciate what makes that poem stand out. And to appreciate what makes 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror' stand out, one has first to know something of its background.

Written in 1973, the poem's immediate background was complicated. Two years previously Ashbery had completed Three Poems. A work of prose poetry, Three Poems answers Stevens's call for a supreme fiction by continuing a tradition of spiritual inquiry which, as Ashbery's writing reminds us, begins with Pascal and runs through Emerson, James, Auden and De Chirico. A profoundly affecting engagement with a Godless present, the book was little less than an expression of faith for a secular age. It carried Ashbery's writing into new and exhilarating territory, and firmly established him as one of the most remarkable poets of his generation. At the same time, and by no means coincidentally, Ashbery was increasingly finding himself the subject of academic and journalistic curiosity. In itself such critical interest was not new: Ashbery's 1964 poem, 'The Skaters', having won an award from the American National Institute of Arts and Letters, and Harold Bloom having singled him out for attention in essays that would eventually become central to The Anxiety of Influence. What was new was both the volume of interest Ashbery's poetry was now attracting, and, more decisively, the form it was increasingly taking.

In the early seventies the means of choice by which critics were increasingly seeking to understand contemporary poetry was the interview. For Ashbery, who has been more interviewed than most, this form of critical interest proved a mixed blessing. On the one hand it promised direct contact with an audience whose existence the very presence of the interviewer appeared to imply. On the other, what became acutely apparent was that, whether by dint of the difficulty of the writing, or of their own failure to give it the attention it deserved, the majority of Ashbery's early interviewers had very little idea what the poetry meant to say and do. Alfred Poulin Jr., who interviewed Ashbery at the Brockport writers convention in 1972, was an unfortunate case in point.

Poulin: Can we get back, then, to that central question of what it is you're communicating? My feeling is that in the middle of the difficulty of your poetry there is a very personal element, disguised by this difficulty.

Ashbery: Is that all? I don't see quite what you mean by a very personal element. Poulin: . . . When I read the poetry I feel there is a personal core that is attempting to come through the syntax and the juxtapositions.

Ashbery: As I told you before, I don't write very much of my experiences, except in a way of afterthoughts. . . . These are not autobiographical poems, they're not confessional poems. (Poulin, 1981, p. 251)

The whole of Poulin's interview with Ashbery is like this. Time and again the interviewer tries to reduce the poetry to a 'personal element'. Time and again the poet insists that such a reading could hardly be further from the truth. Indeed, not only is Ashbery's poetry not, in the sense that Poulin means it, an act of self-expression; but, in the sense that Poulin means it, Ashbery's poetry doubts the existence of a self to be so expressed. As often, then, as Poulin tries to drag the interview back to the autobiography of the poet, Ashbery denies that this is relevant. That he fails to get this fundamental point across is partly because, the interview form being what it is, the writer's self suggests itself as the natural subject of inquiry. But partly also it is because Poulin is so caught up in the fashionable view (after Lowell) that poetry is properly about the individual poet, that any other kind just doesn't register as poetry.

How was Ashbery to respond to this unhappy state of affairs? Conceivably he could ignore it. (Dumb interviewer gets poetry all wrong. So what?) The trouble is that to ignore the interviewer would be, in effect, to ignore the reader. If Poulin (in common with other interviewers) thinks this way about poetry in general, and about Ashbery's poetry in particular, what reason does one have to suppose that the audience on behalf of whom he is asking questions does not think this way also? If the poetry is to communicate - and as Ashbery has repeatedly insisted in interview, there is nothing his poetry means more than to communicate - some account of the voice of the interviewer had to be taken.

This, then, was the complicated background to 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror': the poet arriving at the height of his powers, only to receive the news that what he was writing was being roundly misunderstood. What to do? In the interviews themselves Ashbery's remedial tactic was to redirect the questioner's gaze. Seeking at every opportunity to deflect the conversation away from himself, what the poet sought repeatedly to bring into view was the background against which the conversation was taking place:

Ashbery: Most of my poems are about the experience of experience. . . . We're sitting here, presumably having a nice discussion about somebody's poetry, and yet the occasion is something else also. First of all, I'm in a strange place with lots of lights whose meaning I don't quite understand, and I'm talking about a poem I wrote years ago and which no longer means very much to me. I have a feeling that everything is slipping away from me as I'm trying to talk about it — a feeling I have most of the time, in fact — and I think I was probably trying to call attention to this same feeling in 'Leaving the Atocha Station' and in other poems as well. Not because of any intrinsic importance that feeling might have, but because I feel that somebody should call attention to this. Maybe once it's called attention to we can think about something else, which is what I'd like to do. (Poulin, 1981, p. 245)

'Call[ing] attention to this', to the background against which his expression is taking shape, has long been important to Ashbery. Take 'The Picture of Little J.A. in a Prospect of Flowers', the poem from Ashbery's first volume, Some Trees, which most readily bears comparison with 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror'. Published in 1956 — Auden having judged it the winner, a year earlier, of the prestigious Yale Younger Poets award - Some Trees did not sell well. For those who did read it, however, and were curious about this new young poet, the poem that most promised a clear sight of him was 'The Picture of Little J.A.' And for the reader who looked hard enough, Ashbery was to be found in that poem — albeit not quite in the place one would ordinarily expect. The beginning of the third section of the poem goes to the heart of the matter.

Yet I cannot escape the picture

Of my small self in that bank of flowers:

My head among the blazing phlox

Seemed a pale and gigantic fungus.

I had a hard stare, accepting

Everything, taking nothing

As though the rolled-up future might stink

As loud as stood the sick moment

The shutter clicked.

This image of self might seem familiar. If the speaker (who would seem to be the poet) cannot escape the picture of his younger self, is that not because the child is father to the man, and is the continuity of self the poem proposes not thus unprob-lematically Romantic? In fact Ashbery's argument is something like the opposite. He cannot escape the image of his younger self, not because he is fundamentally unchanged since his youth, but, on the contrary, because like his younger self he is in a state of constant flux, his identity changing according to his situation.

To make this clear in terms of the poem's own, already carefully evolved terms, it is appropriate, if intriguingly bizarre, for the poet to describe his young head as a fungus, because his young self is in the habit, as he observes, of accepting everything. Thus, just as a fungus is a parasite feeding on, and so taking its shape from, its environment, so the identity of the young Ashbery — his state of acceptance making him open to all that goes on around him — is to be located not in some psychologically framed interior, but in the circumstances in which he finds himself.

That this sense of an absorbent self is important to Ashbery is evident from the way in which, in this poem, he links it to his literary background. Take the poem's complex, but highly instructive opening line: 'Darkness falls like a wet sponge'. 'Darkness falls' is an allusion, or rather, an allusion to an allusion; the phrase coming from Stephen Daedalus's repeated misremembering (in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) of the first line of Nashe's poem 'In Time of Pestilence'. What Stephen remembers as 'Darkness falls from the air' should in fact read 'Brightness falls from the air'. The original owner of Ashbery's 'wet sponge' is a little more difficult to trace. But not too difficult, a firm hint to his identity being given by the poem's epigraph. The epigraph, as it turns out, is the last line of Boris Pasternak's memoir Safe Conduct. A quite crucial text in the collective history of the New York School poets — the others of whom were Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler — Safe Conduct speaks directly to Ashbery's poetry in so far as it both issues and embodies Pasternak's defining aesthetic principle that 'The clearest most memorable feature of a work of art is how it arises, and in telling of the most varied things, the finest works in the world in fact tell us their own birth' (Pasternak, 1959, p. 213).

That this idea was central to Pasternak is evident from the number of times he reformulated it. Thus it is the same thought, if more strikingly formulated, that underpins Pasternak's famous complaint in his 1922 manifesto 'Some Theses'. 'People now', Pasternak grumbled, 'imagine that art is like a fountain, whereas it is a sponge. They think that art has to flow forth, whereas what it has to do is absorb and become saturated.' That Pasternak's thinking about art was, in turn, influential on Ashbery is evident from the American poet's repeated insistence in interview that his poems 'characterize the bunch of circumstances they are growing out of' (Bloom and Losada, 1972, p. 20). And 'A Picture of Little J.A. in a Prospect of Flowers' is a case in point. Thus, not only is the poet's young self absorbent — accepting everything; lost, or rather found, 'among' the 'blazing phlox' which surround it — but so too is the poem's language. Alluding to Marvell in its title, Joyce, Nashe and Pasternak in its opening line, and borrowing from Shakespeare, Coleridge and Wordsworth throughout, 'The

Picture of Little J.A.' is itself a sponge, shaped by, because it has fully absorbed, the reading which is the history of its own birth.

Ashbery's poetic development can be understood as a process of ever greater absorption, his poetic scope expanding throughout the sixties as his sense of the circumstances of the poem's birth grew ever more generous. Perhaps no writer since Rabelais has been a more gargantuan consumer of his environment, and the languages which mediate that environment, than Ashbery. Certainly few, if any, poets since the Second World War have worked harder to keep poetry viable in an age of rapid change, excessive information, and radically specializing discourses. In absorbing and re-presenting the background against which it is written, Ashbery's poetry has continued to present the increasingly complex background against which ordinary human communication now takes place, and of which such communication must be aware if it is not to be rendered obsolete by events. Poetry that undertakes this task in the present age is itself necessarily quite complex. Complex enough, certainly, that by the early seventies, as the interviewers were making clear, many readers of poetry (though not, of course, all) were unsure what to make of Ashbery. Two decades on, then, from the writing of 'The Picture of Little J.A.' and after the very considerable effort of getting his poetry up to speed with his times, Ashbery's interview experience seemed to present him with a stark choice: to retreat into the isolation of the avant-garde, disregarding readers who could not or would not make the time to understand him; or, in so far as he could do so without diminishing his poetry, to explain himself. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror is the product of this choice. A number of poems, and rather more than is often noticed, entertain the first option: 'The Tomb of Stuart Merrill', 'Mixed Feelings' and 'Tenth Symphony', for instance, articulating a sharp distaste for an American public too conservative in its reading habits to accept what the poet has to offer. Mostly, however, and the poet having got his irritation off his chest, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror opts to explain. And nowhere more so than in the title poem: 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror' being a brilliantly conceived and superbly executed, if ultimately costly, act of poetic self-explanation.

The poem's title is taken from the painting by the sixteenth-century Italian painter Parmigianino on which it hangs, and whose own conception and execution Vasari describes in detail:

Francesco one day set himself to take his own portrait, looking at himself in a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers. While doing this he remarked the curious effect produced by the rotundity of the glass, which causes the beams of the ceiling to look bent, while the doors and all other parts of the buildings are in like fashion distorted, and recede in a very peculiar manner. All this, Francesco took it into his head to imitate for his diversion. He accordingly caused a globe or ball of wood to be made by a turner, and having divided it in half and brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself with great art to copy all that he saw in the glass, more particularly his own likeness. . . . But as all the nearer objects thus depicted in the glass were diminished, he painted a hand, which he represented as employed in drawing, making it look a little larger than true size, as it does in the glass, and so beautifully done that it appears to be the living member itself (Vasari, 1885, pp. 359-60)

The history of the poem, as Ashbery reports in the introduction to the Arion Press edition of the poem, was more protracted.

I began writing 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror' during a month's residence at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in February 1973. I always wanted to 'do something' with Parmigianino's self-portrait ever since I saw it reproduced in the New York Times Book Review in 1950, accompanying a review of Sidney Freedberg's monograph on the painter. This half-conscious wish was reinforced when I saw the original in Vienna in 1959. Then one day when I was walking around Provincetown during my stay there I passed a bookshop with an inexpensive portfolio of Parmigianino's work displayed in the window - the self-portrait was illustrated on the cover. I bought the book, took it back to my studio and slowly began to write a poem about it, or off it.

Both Ashbery's initial fascination with Parmigianino's painting in 1950, and his decision, in 1973, finally to realize a long-nurtured poetic desire to 'do something' with it, are understandable. The year 1950 was when Ashbery wrote 'Picture of Little J.A. in a Prospect of Flowers', the poem in which he first directed the reader to Pasternak's Safe Conduct, and to which 'Self-Portrait' (as one might expect, given the poems' shared reflective quality) alludes (the painter, like the young J.A., being described as 'accepting everything') (Ashbery, 1977, p. 71). For the young poet with Pasternak's aesthetic on his mind, Parmigianino's 'Self-Portrait' would have seemed intriguing. As a painting of the painter painting himself, it is an immaculate instance of a work of art telling the history of its own making, and so in an important sense it speaks directly to Ashbery's sense of the occasion of the poem. In another respect, however, it is a most un-Ashberyan artefact, in that its apparent sense of its own occasion is radically truncated, the problem having to do with the relation of background to foreground the painting construes.

In so far as Ashbery tends to prefer self-explanation to self-alienation in Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, it is central to his strategy that he should find ways of shifting the reader's focus of attention: foregrounding background in an effort to signal his concern with their shared situation. Key to this realignment of background and foreground, and in some ways the term on which the volume hinges, is the word 'as'. It is the word with which the book opens, the first poem being 'As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat'. It is also the first word of the title poem - 'As Parmigianino did it, the right hand / Bigger than the head' - the trochaic rhythm swinging down heavily on the opening word. It is most to the fore, however, in 'As You Came From The Holy Land', a poem which explicitly calls for a shift of attention:

as you came from that holy land what other signs of earth's dependency were upon you what fixed signs at the crossroads what lethargy in the avenues where all is said in a whisper what tone of voice among the hedges what tone under the apple trees

The 'as' of Auden's 'Musée des Beaux Arts' rather than the 'as' of 'as if' in Stevens's 'Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction', the term functions here as a subordinating conjunction, Ashbery indicating what is going on while or during an apparently more important event is taking place. 'As You Came From The Holy Land' it was not your coming, but what was going on as you were coming that counts.

The problem with Parmigianino's painting from Ashbery's perspective is that because of the manner in which it is painted it is all foreground: the hand, larger than life, swimming out towards the viewer; the head it seems to protect occupying the middle distance; while the studio window, through which one might catch sight of the world beyond, and so the background to, the action of the painting is reduced by the optical illusion to a most insignificant opening. Or as Freedberg, in the monograph of 1950 from which Ashbery quotes in the poem, puts it:

The hand, distortedly large as it would in fact appear in such a mirror, looms in the very foremost plane and instantly catches the spectator's eye, but does not hold it: the hand serves as a bridge into the depth of the picture where the head is placed. Details of clothing, background, etc. are reduced to quite summary terms. (Freedberg, 1950, p. 105)

At its grandest, art-historical, level, Ashbery's argument with Parmigianino is an argument about perspective. Using a term Ashbery cites in his poem, Freedberg describes the painting as a 'bizarria' on 'High Renaissance style', which comments on that style by carrying it to its logical conclusion. By his use of the convex mirror, Parmigianino accentuates the laws of perspective to an incredible degree, the background disappearing behind a shockingly over-emphasized individual. From Ashbery's point of view, then, Parmigianino's 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror' is both an immaculate instance of art telling the history of its own coming into being, and a radical manifestation of the self- (not other-) absorbed artist. Ashbery's rediscovery of the painting in Provincetown in 1973 might thus be thought serendipitous. At a time when interviewers were trying to pin his poetry down to a 'personal element', and he was trying to correct this view of his work by indicating what was going on as they were presenting it, Parmigianino's painting provided a prime opportunity for self-explanation.

That Ashbery meant to explain himself in terms the reader would understand is evident from the poem's seemingly conventional manner and structure. For a start it appears to have a continuous subject. This is not precisely the case, in that the painting is less the subject of the poem than the hook on which its meditations hang, but the fact that the poet allows the appearance of such a subject indicates his willingness to accommodate readerly expectations. It also differs from most Ashbery poems in having a clearly identifiable and sustained narrative voice: the speaker, who seems indistinguishable from the poet, engaging in a dialogue with Parmigianino, often addressing the painter directly ('Can you stand it, / Francesco? Are you strong enough for it?'). Ashbery addresses the painter in this way as a means of addressing the needs of the reader, the effect of this new style of address being, as critics have variously remarked, that the poem is 'more realized in terms of the reader'; that 'here Ashbery himself has been reader'; and that in this poem the poet is a 'one-way interviewer of Parmigianino' (Miklitsch, 1980, p. 118; Costello, 1982, p. 587; Heffernan, 1993, p. 184). Aiming to draw the reader, and his surrogate the interviewer, into his poetic, Ashbery accommodates them by incorporating their voice into his poem.

Having thus drawn the reader to his poem, Ashbery proceeds to emphasize its explanatory purpose by what he calls its 'essayistic thrust': the poem making scholarly references (it quotes Vasari and Freedberg); offering etymological digressions (the word 'speculation', we are advised, derives from 'the Latin speculum, mirror'); and unpacking allusions that ordinarily the reader might be expected to get for themselves ('As Berg said of a phrase in Mahler's Ninth'). Chiefly, though, the poem accommodates itself to the need to explain by conducting the reader through a carefully staged argument.

The logic of the poem's argument is contained in the ambiguity of its opening clause,

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer And swerving easily away, as though to protect What it advertises.

On the one hand, as John Shoptaw has observed, what this indicates is that the poet will write in the manner of the painting (Shoptaw, 1994, p. 182). His poem will be coherent, autonomous (in that it is self-explanatory), and its contents will appear organized because presented from a single point of view. On the other hand the purpose of the poem is to draw the reader away from the self-regarding view of art articulated by the painting, and to encourage them to consider what it appears to exclude. Its object, in other words, is to indicate what was and is happening 'As Parmigianino did it', as the poet contemplates him doing it, and as the reader contemplates both.

The beauty of the argument is the incremental pace at which it draws the reader towards this new way of seeing. Thus, in the first of the poem's six sections the painting is presented in its own terms. Ashbery quotes Vasari on the making of the painting, and offers a more or less faithful verbal reproduction of the image of self the painting contrives. 'What the portrait says', as the poet makes clear, is that one's soul or self is private, sealed off from factors outside it and so, by definition, incommunicable. Viewing the painting from an Emersonian point of view, what the poet would like to believe is that therefore the self in Parmigianino's 'Self-Portrait' is 'restless',

'longing to be free'. In itself, however, the painting does not say this but insists, rather, that one's life is englobed. One would like to stick one's hand Out of the globe, but its dimension, What carries it, will not allow it.

So convincing is Parmigianino's Self-Portrait (so persuasive is the illusion he creates) that nothing in the painting itself would seem to allow one to argue, on the contrary, that one's life is not englobed. To make that argument requires one, first, to step beyond the confines of the painting, and so to show what Parmigianino excludes in the achievement of his trompe-l'oeil.

Each of the five sections that follow is a digression from the painting. In section two the poet's attention begins to drift — as it does when one is looking at a painting — and he finds himself thinking first of his own circumstances:

I think of the friends

Who came to see me, of what yesterday

Was like.

and then, by association, of the circumstances that might have been passing through the painter's mind:

How many people came and stayed a certain time, Uttered light and dark speech that became part of you Like light behind windblown fog and sand, Filtered and influenced by it, until no part Remains that is surely you.

The self, this passage suggests, like Ashbery's poetry, is a collaboration, so much the product of factors beyond oneself that the individual self, as such, barely exists. Section three follows this consideration of what takes place as one views or produces a painting by considering how much more difficult it is to represent such experiences.

Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted, Desolate, reluctant as any landscape To yield what are laws of perspective After all only to the painter's deep Mistrust, a weak instrument though Necessary.

Nothing is more difficult to get into perspective than the present, and so art which works according to the laws of perspective necessarily falsifies the circumstances in which it finds itself. Section four develops the point historically, drawing on Freedberg to present the High Renaissance background out of which Parmigianino's painting emerges. While moving from Parmigianino's situation to a contemplation of the poet's own, section five remarks how

The shadow of the city injects its own

Urgency: Rome where Francesco

Was at work during the Sack: his inventions

Amazed the soldiers who burst in on him;

They decided to spare his life, but he left soon after;

Vienna where the painting is today, where

I saw it with Pierre in the summer of 1959; New York

Where I am now, which is a logarithm

Of other cities.

This is a beautiful transition, the history of Parmigianino's painting leading Ashbery to recount the history of his relationship with the painting, and so the history of the writing of his poem; a history which does not, as Parmigianino pretends, begin and end in the studio, but extends outwards to incorporate the city (and all it contains and stands for) in which the poem was written. Step by step, then, the poem indicates what Parmigianino's painting excludes, and what it encourages its viewer to exclude, drawing the reader in the process away from the painter's aesthetic and towards the poet's own. The result is that by the sixth section — the painting by now having all but disappeared from view — both poet and reader experience a release.

The poet is released in that having illustrated the limitations of another's aesthetic, he is now in a position to propose his own:

Is there anything To be serious about beyond this otherness That gets included in the most ordinary Forms of daily activity, changing everything Slightly and profoundly . . . ?

And because Ashbery's poem, unlike Parmigianino's painting, is serious about this 'otherness', about the circumstances that surround us as we produce or consume art, and because his poem, as he hopes, has redirected our attention to that 'otherness', so the reader also should, at this point, feel a release:

And we must get out of it even as the public Is pushing through the museum now so as to Be out by closing time. You can't live there.

Ashbery's poetic, like Emerson's 'Divinity School Address', but unlike Parmigianino's painting, leads the reader beyond the confines and conventions of artistic practice and into an encounter with their own experience.

Ashbery's 'Self-Portrait' could hardly have been more subtly done. Instinctively resistant to the idea of self-explanation — suggestive, as it is, of a didactic attitude to the reader — Ashbery reveals himself in the negative: presenting himself to the reader by showing what another artist, apparently unlike him, is not. As such the poem works like Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, or, more so, like Pasternak's account of Mayakovsky in Safe Conduct, the writer, in each case, revealing himself as the other of his subject. Even so, and for all its brilliant ironies, Ashbery has consistently sought to distance both the reader and himself from 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror'. The tactic is understandable. Ashbery wrote the poem by way of a bargain, going over to the reader's way of speaking in the hope that the reader would in turn be drawn to his. While many readers have, undoubtedly, fulfilled the terms of Ashbery's bargain, very many, also, have not, academic readers in particular having become more attracted to the manner of the poem's argument than to its implications. The concrete result of this has been that a poem which was intended to alert readers to the rest of Ashbery's work has instead, all too often, been singled out from it. All of which is by no means to suggest that the new reader should not look at Ashbery's most famous poem. Instead, it is an argument for looking beyond.


Ashbery, J. (1977). Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Manchester: Carcanet Press.

Ashbery, J. (1978). Some Trees. New York: Ecco Press.

Bloom, H. (1973). The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bloom, J. and Losada, R. (1972). 'Craft Interview with John Ashbery.' New York Quarterly 9, 11-33.

Costello, B. (1982). 'John Ashbery and the Idea of the Reader.' Contemporary Literature 23: 4, 493-514.

Freedberg, S. J. (1950). Parmigianino: His Works in Painting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Heffernan, J. A. W. (1993). Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Lehman, D. (1998). The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. New York: Doubleday.

Miklitsch, R. (1980). 'John Ashbery.' Contemporary Literature 21: 1, 118—35.

Pasternak, B. (1959). Safe Conduct: An Autobiography and Other Works. London: Elek Books.

Poulin Jnr., A. (1981). 'The Experience of Experience: A Conversation with John Ashbery.' Michigan Quarterly 2: 3, 242—55.

Schultz, S. M. (ed.) (1995). The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Shoptaw, J. (1994). On the Outside Looking Out: John Ashbery's Poetry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vasari, G. (1885). Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, vol. 3, trans. Mrs. J. Foster. London: Henry G. Bohn.

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