Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Audio: John Ashbery reads “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” (full text)


“Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror” is the title poem of a 1975 collection by the American writer John Ashbery. The poem is a meditation on a 1524 painting by the Italian late Renaissance artist Parmigianino. Ashbery’s book received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The poem, made up of 552 lines, begins:

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


To read a pdf of the complete text of “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” by John Ashbery, click here.

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to listen to John Ashbery read the poem.


Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by Parmigianino (c. 1524). Oil on convex panel. 24.4 cm diameter. Located in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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