John Ashbery, one of the greatest,
most celebrated and beloved,
American poets, won every major
American award for poetry: Pulitzer Prize, National
Book Award, Yale Younger Poets Prize, Bollingen
Prize, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Griffin
International Award and MacArthur “Genius” Grant,
Fullbright, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. While
completing his latest poetry book Planishere
(Harper Collins publisher), his translation of
Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations was finished
as he basked in acclaim of a major
New York City gallery presentation of his collages.
The New School: Theresa Lang
Community and Student Center, Arnold Hall was
standing room/packed on this freezing, winter night.
The February event: John Ashbery reading from his
latest poetry book (wrote over twenty) before David
Lehman, coordinator of the New School’s graduate
poetry program, hosted an interview and welcomed
audience questions and book signing.
We hear the wit, twist and turning
stream of consciousness flow ”open-ended and
multivarious like life,” he once said in an
“I Begin with a poem title and not an ending. Often
the title has nothing to do with it” he told us.
History unraveled by the teaspoon:
Harvard; never wanting to be an art critic and
became one; five years in Paris; news for the Herald
Tribune; New York Magazine, Partisan Review, Art
News, critic; The Tibor de Nagy Gallery, artists and
poets era etc. How the varied list goes on.
There was the typical grey haired man
in a blue beret and hand knit scarf, tilting his
head in awe, as a phrase hit home while clusters of
ladies in faux- fur, nodded in unison. It was
amazing to see so many, young people with coats on
chairs and Ugg boots off. They weren’t tweeting or
ear- plugged into Train while fingering cell
phones. No! They were BE-ing present in the NOW as
they sat on the edges of
red chairs, LISTENING! LISTENING, to a
great man in his eighty’s.
I saw a miracle.