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History and writingEdit

The poem first appeared in The New Yorker in 1984.[1] It was the opening poem of Ashbery's 1984 collection The Wave.[2] It was written soon after Ashbery almost died due to an infection.[3]

The poem is in part a reference to the epic poem Kalevala, which Ashbery revisited in his later poem "Finnish Rhapsody".[4]



The poem loosely adheres to the form of a sonnet, with the traditional fourteen lines and the octet/seste of a Petrarchan sonnet.[5] Adhering to the format was not intentional on Ashbery's part.[5]


In her review of A Wave, Helen Vendler wrote that the poem deals with the pains of aging using clichés.[6]

Allusions and influencesEdit

The poem is evocative of W. H. Auden's work.[7] Auden had an influence on Ashbery early poetry, an influence that diminished over the course of his career.


Although shorter and simpler than many of his most famous works, it is considered to be a well-known poem of Ashbery's.[4]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Ashbery, John (9 April 1984). "At North Farm". The New Yorker.
  2. ^ Waters, William (2003). Poetry's Touch: On Lyric Address. Cornell University Press.
  3. ^ Gray, Timothy (2010). Urban Pastoral: Natural Currents in the New York School. University of Iowa Press.
  4. ^ a b Stewart, Susan (1988). "The Last Man". The American Poetry Review. 17 (5): 9–16.
  5. ^ a b Lehman, David (16 December 1984). "THE PLEASURES OF POETRY". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  6. ^ Vendler, Helen (14 June 1984). "Making It New". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  7. ^ Gander, Forrest (1 July 2007). "In Search of John Ashbery". Boston Review. Retrieved 30 December 2017.