I had the Norton Anthology when I was a kid. I did read some Ashbery there, but was more taken with Koch and O'Hara. The Self-Portrait came out when I was 16 and won all the prizes. Then I was a solid Ashbery convert. I remember how people would condescend to him and not get him, during the heigh-day of the deep image school. I argued with people for hours, but even my dad liked him, and his poems stared appearing in the New Yorker and the NYROB almost every week. He wrote book after book, and I bought them all, even when I thought he was repeating himself.
The stupid hostile reviews kept coming, but after a while the trinity of Vendler, Bloom, and Perloff had canonized him, and countless people started imitating him. What a curse. We don't need more people writing Ashbery poems because he wrote enough of them himself: poem after poem, book after book without much variation, it sometimes seemed. But then he would surprise you with something like Flow Chart. There are many peaks in his work.