John Ashbery, Winner of the 1976 National Book Award for SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR.
For as long as I have been publishing poetry, it has been criticized as “difficult” and “private,” though I never meant for it to be. At least, I wanted its privateness to suggest the ways in which all of us are private and alone, in the sense Proust meant when he said, “Each of us is truly alone.”
And I wanted the difficulty to reflect the difficulty of reading, any kind of reading, which is both a pleasant and painful experience since we are temporarily giving ourselves to something which may change us.
At any rate, this dose of public recognition comes at a time when I had just about resigned myself to being relegated to my own privacy, and needless to say it has had a tonic effect. And I am pleased not least because the award seems to confirm my own feeling that my privacy has “gone public” and is being construed the way I meant it to be. It’s very difficult to accept an honor of this sort without sounding self-congratulatory, so I shall purposely avoid complimenting the judges on their “wise choice,” and end by saying how very happy I am to have been given the National Book Award.