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The quizzical priest: inside John Ashbery’s everyday magical thinking

Ashbery had a gift for generosity, comedy and simplicity.

By Jeremy Noel-Tod   April 2018

A Dream of Heroes, a 2015 collage by John Ashbery. Photo: Estate of John Ashbery, Courtesy Tibor De Nagy Gallery, New York

“I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free.” These words, which begin John Ashbery’s most celebrated volume, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), were extensively quoted on social media when the poet died last autumn at the age of 90. It was not an untimely death, but the news still felt like a shiver in the natural order. Regularly described as “America’s greatest living poet,” Ashbery…

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