Posts Tagged ‘John Ashbery’
March 15, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
Late last year, I saw John Ashbery give a reading at Pioneer House, in Brooklyn. At one point, he read a prose poem by James Tate, who died last summer. It was, Ashbery said, Tate’s final poem—so incontrovertibly final, in fact, that it had been discovered in the poet’s typewriter soon after his death. What Ashbery went on to read was terrific: as I recalled, it opened in a comic mode, riffing on all these bogus feats Tate claimed to have accomplished that year (hot-dog-eating contest winner, arm-wrestling contest winner, et cetera) and building to a quiet, rueful meditation on aging.
It seemed almost too perfect to have been plucked unedited from a typewriter, so much so that I wondered, in passing, if maybe it were a sly, prankish tribute. I knew, or I thought I remembered, that Ashbery and Tate had been close. “He has developed a homegrown variety of surrealism almost in his own backyard,” Ashbery had written of his friend in 1995—a variety in which we find “something very like the air we breathe, the unconscious mind erupting in one-on-one engagements with the life we all live, every day.” The poem Ashbery had read was so rich with those “eruptions” that I knew it had to be Tate’s.
I’m happy to say that Tate’s final poem appears in the Spring issue of The Paris Review, along with four new poems by John Ashbery. Below you'll find a photo of the poem as it was found in Tate’s typewriter. His last line, given the circumstances, has a new resonance. What are the chances? Read More »
March 3, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In the long car ride we call life, Andrew O’Hagan has eschewed the driver’s seat for the passenger seat, and he’s loving every minute of it: “In my natural state, I possess the habit of saying no to everything, but all the requesting party has to do to make me say yes is to send a nice car. In my youth, I often daydreamed of a driver picking me up from school. It was Scotland, and it was winter, which meant it got dark about three o’clock in the afternoon … Being driven is luxurious because it is a step back into the realm of personal freedom, which—when it comes to all areas of good service—is the freedom to enjoy an outcome without being responsible for it. People seek their freedom in different ways, of course, and some want an open top and their own foot on the gas, but for me the liberty to disengage is everything.”
- As if to rebuke all the ambitious young white dudes presently working away at their doorstep debut novels, a Russian scientist named Vladimir Aniskin has designed what he asserts to be the world’s smallest book: it’s seventy by ninety micrometers and takes as its subject, appropriately enough, a flea’s shoes. Readers must exercise extreme care: “The text is printed using the lithographic process onto sheets of film just three or four microns thick. Aniskin said that the most difficult part of the process was binding the pages together so they can be turned. He used tungsten wires with a diameter of five microns as the “springs” for the pages, placing the finished books into half a poppyseed, displayed on gold plates. The pages, which have text on both sides, can be turned using a sharpened metal needle.”
- The line between persecution and a persecution complex can be razor thin. Just ask early Christians, who went to great lengths to highlight their sense of embattlement. Tom Bissell writes: “While some Christians were martyred for their faith, and even thrown to lions, the earliest Christian accounts of martyrdom fail to make clear one interesting wrinkle: killing men and women for perceived apostasy was highly uncommon among pagans, and most ancient-world authorities were inclined to be lenient toward Christians, many of whom, like Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, demanded Martyrdom, then, is a difference-obliterating mind-set that leaves death as the only thing to venerate.”
- Garth Greenwell wrote a forty-one-page paragraph. Not as a standalone, mind you—it’s at the center of his novel What Belongs to You. “I wrote the section very quickly, in a kind of white heat, mostly on the backs of napkins and receipts and other scraps of paper someone might mistake for trash. I numbered these as I wrote and put them in a pile, and it was only when I finished and typed them up that I understood the form of what I had made … [The paragraph] is also a declaration that the text won’t obey the usual rules of logic or sequence, that its allegiance is to other modes of conveying experience. Or maybe less its allegiance than its submission.”
- Today in adaptations of translations: A Brooklyn theater collective has turned John Ashbery’s translations of Rimbaud into Rimbaud in New York, a play designed never to let you forget that it’s rooted in text: “The play is about myths, to be sure, but it’s also concerned with the pleasure of the text and emotions and thoughts that words can and cannot illuminate. Ashbery not only captures that French renegade’s intensity and playfulness in his translation, he does so with an urgency that reminds us that Rimbaud left the form that he helped create—modernism—as a disenchanted young man, while Ashbery, never a cynic, works in his own vibrant space, one that goes on and on.”
March 1, 2016 | by The Paris Review
Behold: our new Spring issue, with a cover by Adrian Tomine and a shade of yellow bright enough to bring the thaw. It includes an Art of Nonfiction interview with Luc Sante, who talks about growing up in the New York of the seventies and eighties and his fascination with “the intersection of specific time and place”:
This goes back to my teenage years. I would think, Jeez, 1972 feels so different from 1971 ... I meant the feeling on the street, the feeling emanated by people, songs, the contents of the songs, what people were wearing. Trying to reproduce that elusive factor—it’s something I’ve tried to write about many, many times, and it’s impossible. I can only do it, kind of, by indirection. But my spelunking in that direction has nourished a lot of my work.
Sante contributed our portfolio, too: an annotated collection of the magazine covers, collages, flyers, and ephemera of his youth.
And Robert Caro, who has devoted himself to a five-volume life of Lyndon Johnson since 1976, discusses the Art of Biography:
Rhythm matters. Mood matters. Sense of place matters. All these things we talk about with novels, yet I feel that for history and biography to accomplish what they should accomplish, they have to pay as much attention to these devices as novels do.
You’ll also find James Tate’s final poem, discovered in his typewriter after his death; a story by Witold Gombrowicz never before published in English; the fourth and final installment of Chris Bachelder’s comic masterpiece The Throwback Special; new fiction from Jensen Beach, Benjamin Hale, Dana Johnson, Craig Morgan Teicher, and Anne-Laure Zevi; and poems by John Ashbery, Mary Jo Bang, Erica Ehrenberg, Amit Majmudar, J. D. McClatchy, Morgan Parker, Mary Ruefle, Frederick Seidel, and Cynthia Zarin.
December 9, 2015 | by Ben Lerner
Last night, Pioneer Works, an artists’ space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, hosted a celebration of John Ashbery, who turned eighty-eight this year. The poets Geoffery G. O’Brien, Mónica de la Torre, and John Yau read some of their work and their favorite poems by Ashbery. Before Ashbery came to the stage, Ben Lerner made the following remarks. —D. P.
September 22, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- If you’re like me, you spend most of your free time imagining what Hamlet might look like: the pallid cheeks, the heavy eyelids, the ruminating brow, the svelte silhouette, the dejected posture … But what if he was fat? What if the hero of the greatest tragedy of all time was a portly slob? His own mother believes he is—“He’s fat and scant of breath,” she says to Claudius—and an inspection of Shakespeare’s fat usage provides some troubling evidence.
- Women read more crime fiction than men, supposedly because they “savor the victim role.” But Vera Caspary, a midcentury crime novelist, did just the opposite: “On the page, Caspary had almost supernatural powers of bemusement; she turned her sorrows into triumphs. She liked to joke about her attractiveness to ‘macaroni salesmen.’ Her husband, whom she met when she was forty, was a movie producer, but she earned more than he did, and he resented it. She tried to ignore his resentment, and corrected people at parties who called her Mrs. Goldsmith.”
- My grandfather’s favorite place to walk was the mall, and in this he was not alone—shopping centers are apparently “the second most popular venue for walking in the country, just behind neighborhoods.” Mall walkers, or Mall Stars, tend to be older, and they’re admirably immune to the commercial aspects of the space, especially when they walk early in the morning: “Since nothing’s open you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to buy,” one mall walker said. “Plus, all the stores sell clothes for young people.” The Mall of America boasts some 250 Mall Stars. There is something to live for.
- Fiction in England “flourished for centuries before that of any of its neighbors”; even so, one of its earliest practitioners, Geoffrey of Monmouth, couldn’t bring himself to admit he was making shit up. His History of the Kings of England was full of invented royalty, but “Geoffrey considered himself a historian, and presented himself as such … Even at the time there were people who thought he was taking the mickey; one commentator, Gerald of Wales, remarked that demons would flee when the gospels were read, but flock round to listen to Geoffrey’s fibs (there was, for instance, no ‘Emperor Leo’). Nevertheless, his work was hugely popular, and more than two hundred manuscripts survive.”
- Now that the scandal surrounding Michael Derrick Hudson and Sherman Alexie has died down, let’s revisit another ruse, from 2012: that time when a guy said he was John Ashbery just because his e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org, and a prominent lit mag believed him.
September 2, 2015 | by Damion Searls
Learning a word from John Ashbery.
It started, as things sometimes do, with an Ashbery poem: “Staffage,” from his book A Wave.
The poem is more than thirty years old now, and it’s remarkable how well it captures the generation then just being born: “I am one of a new breed / Of inquisitive pest” (the poem makes clear-ish that this is a pest from the perspective of the older speaker, not in the eyes of the poet himself) “in love with the idea / Of our integrity, programming us over dark seas / Into small offices, where we sit and compete / With you, on your own time.”
It’s a kind of prophecy Ashbery can still pull off, for instance with the artisanal children of today in a poem from 2015’s Breezeway called “Seven-Year-Old Auroch Likes This”: “Will research tell us tomorrow / of normal morals? Take a Brooklyn family / in fracture mode, vivid, / energizing, throbs to the earlobes … Exeunt the Kardashians.” I predict this poem will make perfect sense in thirty years. Read More »