For John Ashbery’s Personal Library, a Spot on the Shelves at Harvard | Modern Society of USA

For John Ashbery’s Personal Library, a Spot on the Shelves at Harvard

For John Ashbery’s Personal Library, a Spot on the Shelves at Harvard

When John Ashbery died in 2017, he left behind more than 30 collections of elliptical, often collagelike poetry, including “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” which won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize.

He also, like most writers, left behind another cache of books: an eclectic personal library of some 5,000 volumes, which will now be getting space on the shelves at Harvard University, his alma mater.

The university’s Houghton Library, which began acquiring the poet’s manuscripts and other papers in 1986, has announced the acquisition of the John Ashbery Reading Library, which includes more than 5,000 books of poetry, art criticism, architectural history, philosophy, religious history and cookbooks collected over the poet’s lifetime.

The collection, which was donated by Mr. Ashbery’s husband, David Kermani, convey the traces of the poet’s thought, and also of his hand. There are annotated editions of books by Boris Pasternak, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche and others, as well as the copy of the “Oxford Book of American Verse” he used as an undergraduate, with pressed flowers used as bookmarks.

Those papers are open to scholars, but at least one of Mr. Ashbery’s belongings will be of more concrete use. Mr. Kermani has also donated one of the poet’s desks, which will be permanently installed in one of the university’s resident undergraduate colleges, where students will be “encouraged to create their own works,” according to a news release.

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