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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is a long poem by John Ashbery, an American poet associated with the New York School of poetry. The poem was first published in 1975 and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1976.

Context:

The poem was written during the 1970s, a time of great social and political upheaval in the United States. The poem reflects Ashbery's interest in the avant-garde and experimental styles of poetry that were emerging during this time, as well as his exploration of language and meaning.

Content:

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is a meditation on art, perception, and the nature of reality. The poem takes its title from a painting by the Italian artist Parmigianino, which depicts a self-portrait in a convex mirror. The poem is structured as a series of reflections and meditations on this image, as well as on other works of art and cultural artifacts.

Structure:

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is divided into sections, each of which is organized around a particular theme or idea. The poem has no consistent meter or rhyme scheme and is written in a free verse style. The structure of the poem reflects Ashbery's interest in the avant-garde and experimental styles of poetry that were emerging during this time.

Poetic Elements:

The poem makes use of a variety of poetic techniques and devices, including imagery, metaphor, and repetition. The use of a self-portrait in a convex mirror as a central image emphasizes the theme of the nature of perception and reality, while the use of poetic techniques such as repetition helps to create a sense of continuity and coherence.

Summary:

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is a complex and challenging work that rewards careful reading and analysis. The poem's use of art as a central image emphasizes the importance of perception and reality in shaping our understanding of the world. Ashbery's exploration of these themes reflects the social and cultural context of his time, as well as his interest in the avant-garde and experimental styles of poetry that were emerging during this time.

Poem Snippet:

"Where is the artist, who was right about everything,

Who saw through the masks of the actors and the office seekers,

Saw through the Cynics and the hosts of the articulate and

the suave debaters

And the bigots with their noses in the air and the

charlatans spouting

Confidence games for the soul and the connoisseur of

chips?"


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