John Ashbery’s Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror: A Study in Metaphor and Meaning

John Ashbery’s Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror is a complex and thought-provoking poem that has been widely studied and discussed since its publication in 1975. The poem is a meditation on the nature of art, identity, and the relationship between the two. It is a study in metaphor and meaning, and its exploration of these themes has made it one of the most influential works of modern poetry.

Here’s how the poem starts…

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
In a movement supporting the face, which swims
Toward and away like the hand
Except that it is in repose. It is what is
Sequestered….

Read the full poem here.

The poem is written in three parts, each of which is composed of a series of short, lyrical stanzas. The first part of the poem is a description of a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Parmigianino. The painting is a self-portrait, and Ashbery uses it as a metaphor for the creative process. He suggests that the painting is a reflection of the artist’s inner self, and that it is a way of expressing his identity.

The second part of the poem is a meditation on the nature of art and identity. Ashbery suggests that art is a way of expressing one’s inner self, and that it is a reflection of the artist’s identity. He also suggests that art is a way of understanding the world, and that it can be used to explore the complexities of life.

The third part of the poem is a reflection on the relationship between art and identity. Ashbery suggests that art is a way of understanding the self, and that it can be used to explore the complexities of life. He also suggests that art is a way of expressing one’s inner self, and that it can be used to explore the depths of one’s identity.

Through its use of metaphor and meaning, the poem offers a unique and insightful look into the creative process and the complexities of life.

parmigianino self portrait in a convex mirror
Parmigianino – Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror – c1524.
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