Time, Speed, Selfhood, & Transcendence: A John Ashbery Masterclass

Time, Speed, Selfhood, & Transcendence: A John Ashbery Masterclass

Write new poems in response to John Ashbery’s ‘Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror’.

            that the soul is not a soul, 
Has no secret, is small, and it fits 
Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.’ – John Ashbery, ‘Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ 

John Ashbery’s masterpiece, ‘Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror’, is a highly meditative, complex poem which moves exceedingly fast from one image to the next, and yet, at the same time, demands to be read slowly, each sentence asking for the reader’s complete and undivided attention. Eavan Boland described the poem as ‘a dark, expansive speculation about selfhood and transcendence. There is a reach about it that is certainly elsewhere in Ashbery, but happens here with a special intensity’ (Poetry Ireland Review, 123). 

During this Masterclass, we will read the poem bit by bit, focusing on a single section of the poem in each session. We will discuss the poem’s core themes and images including the concepts of time and space, dream and consciousness, our interactions with art and the multiple, elusive ways with which we embark on artistic creations. As the poem offers an incredible wide range of themes, contradictions, and philosophical queries, we will travel with Ashbery from Rome to Vienna and New York, while creating our own poetic explorations in response. 

So, join us for this in-depth Masterclass, as we take inspiration from Ashbery’s writing – through close exploration of his magnum opus – as stimulus for exciting new poems of your own. 

Masterclasses are an expanded version of our International Courses, with a much deeper consideration of technical craft and critical theory. These 12-week courses (maximum 10 places) are for advanced students only, and fluency with poetic language and ideas will be assumed. There are no live chats and they are suitable for UK and International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: Jovis Aloor

About Stav Poleg View Profile

Stav Poleg‘s debut poetry collection, The City, was published by Carcanet in spring 2022 and was chosen by the Financial Times as one of the best Summer Books of 2022. Her poetry has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review and elsewhere. A selection of her work is featured in New Poetries VIII (Carcanet, 2021). Her graphic-novel installation, Dear Penelope: Variations on an August Morning, created with artist Laura Gressani, was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Her theatre work was read at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and the Shunt Vaults, London, and most recently at Kettle’s Yard gallery, Cambridge. She serves on the editorial board of Magma Poetry magazine and teaches for the Poetry School on a range of subjects including poetry inspired by the Divine Comedy, the Odyssey, and the cinema of Fellini. 

'The Poetry School is an inspiring community for developing one's poetry and connecting with like minded people. It changed my life - I wouldn't be without it.'

- Spring 2022 survey response

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