John Ashbery was born on July 28, 1927 in Rochester, New York. He was educated at Harvard and Columbia universities and studied in Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship. Initially wishing to be a painter, then a musician, he has had a variety of careers including reference librarian and art critic. In the early 1950s, he was a copywriter with Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill. His collection of poems, Turandot and other Poems, published in 1953, established his reputation as one of the leading American poets of his generation. Ashbery feels strongly influenced by film and other art forms. The abstract expressionist movement in art had a profound effect on his writing style. Frequently termed a philosophical poet, Ashbery's poems often deal with the mind and the connection of the reader. Ashbery has published several volumes of poetry, including Houseboat Days and Flow Chart. Highly regarded by critics, he received a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976, all for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. He received the Ambassador Book Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2011, he won the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He also writes under the pseudonym Jonas Berry.
Mark Ford is a poet and Professor of English at University College London.