John Ashbery is one of those poets who,being keen on creating an alluring style while at the same time denying a topical center in his poems with which you may create your interpretation and fashion a handy analysis of how the poet operates as an artist, that I've found myself arguing with for forty plus years since I first encountered him. Exasperating, revealing, dense,at times effervescent and transcendent, maddeningly private in references , sometimes just plain incoherent,other times transcendent and brimming with unreal clarity, Ashbery writes as if in a continual state of just arising from a deep and murky sleep. I'd hate to reduce describing him to "stream of consciousness"--that would be too easy for a reading population that , mostly, hasn't read Woolfe, Joyce, Faulkner or Stein--but his work does deal with the idea of the mind perceiving the material plain, concentrating on the objects being beheld, assigning associations from a memory that instinctively attempts to make connections between dissociated sensations, and then returning to the material world, and back yet again to the mind. It's a back and forth dynamic where in any thing that comes to mind comes also into play, attached to an image, made mysterious , poetic, glaring and anonymous at once. At his best, Ashbery has that effect, and that is where his greatness, hard to describe as it is, lies in plenty. And, of course, he has done more than a few pages of things that remain on the the page, untrammeled sentences that ought to have been trammeled. Here is a thoughtful selection of what one could consider his 10 best poems, with clear and concise comments from Ashbery's biographer Karin Roffman, author of the new biography The Things We Know Best: John Ashbery's Early Life.