Something Close to Music


An intimate and unique collection of the work of John Ashbery-a prolific poet and art critic-pairing poetry and art writings with playlists of music from his personal library.


ISBN: 9781644230701 Category:

John Ashbery, Monica de la Torre


This book places poetry by Ashbery (1927-2017), gathered from his later collections, in conversation with a selection of contemporaneous art writing. In addition, as Ashbery loved music and listened to it while writing, the “playlists” here offer representative samplings of music from these same years, culled from Ashbery’s own library of recordings.

Ashbery’s poetry is frequently described as ekphrastic, though, rather than writing a poem “based on” or “inspired” by the content of an artwork of or piece of music, he engages with how the experience of seeing it and the artistic strategies employed offer ways of thinking about it and through it. Many of the observations from Ashbery’s art writing also offer keys to how we might read his poetry.

Many of the recordings he listened to feature contemporary classical works that emphasize complex textures, disparate sounds, and disjunct phrases. Ashbery’s poetry similarly plays with a diversity of poetic textures and sudden turns such that a reader might construct multiple narratives or pathways of meaning. He rarely offers linear stories or focuses on evocative descriptions of a scene or object.

In exploring this ekphrastic book project, the reader is invited to discover how, for Ashbery, these three forms might illuminate and inform one another.

Additional information

Weight 152 g
Dimensions 10.8 x 17.6 cm
Publisher name David Zwirner Books
Publication date 26 July 2022
Number of pages 96
Format Paperback / softback
Dimensions 10.8 x 17.6 cm
Weight 152 g


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John Ashbery (1927-2017) was born in Rochester, New York. He was the author of more than twenty-five books of poetry, including Commotion of the Birds, Breeze way, Quick Question, Planisphere, Notes from the Air, which was awarded the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize, A Worldly Country, Where Shall I Wander, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award, and Some Trees, which was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series in 1955. The winner of many other prizes and awards both nationally and internationally, he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation in 2011 and a National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama at the White House, in 2012.

Mónica de la Torre is a poet and essayist. Her books include Repetition Nineteen (2020) and The Happy End/All Welcome (2017), a riff on Martin Kippenberger's 1994 art installation The Happy End of Franz Kafka's "Amerika," itself a riff on Kafka's unfinished novel Amerika. Born and raised in Mexico City, she is also the author of several collections in Spanish, including the image text volume Taller de Taquimecanografía (2011), an exquisite corpse composed with the eponymous women's art collective she helped form. Recent writing appears in Felix Gonzalez Torres's Photostats and Lucy Raven's Dia Chelsea publication. She coedited the anthology Women in Concrete Poetry 1959-1979 (2020) and teaches at Brooklyn College.