I have chosen this book / simply because I happen to have come upon a copy of it / but I’m taking it to be fairly representative of Ashbery’s later poetry / by which I would indicate the books that have appeared since Flow Chart (published in 1991 / and succeeded by a new book of lyric poetry every couple of years).
The paradox of the poetic sign is that the more densely textured it becomes, the more it expands its referential power; but this density also turns it into a phenomenon in its own right, throwing its autonomy into relief and thus loosening up its bond with the real world. — Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature
The southern New Critics bequeathed to generations of American English students a reductive but serviceable distillation of poetics into versification, fickly defining prosody as according to an obviously conservative set of lyric values. But “the new criticism” was a phrase coined by Joel Spingarn, whose impressionistic depiction of poetry carried little of the taxonomic and finally deadening thrust of “close reading.” Close reading had to do with hearing (the inner voice) and looked at a page only closely enough to take a strictly alphabetic set of cues. This kind of inspection could be quickly learned and reading poetry thereby could be easily tested.