I’ve been immersing myself in the poetry of John Ashbery, which I had started reading in the mid-70s, beginning with The Double Dream of Spring and Houseboat Days. In 1981, I heard him read in Rochester, New York, where he was born. His voice was low-key – not much drama – but mesmerizing. After the reading, a guy in the audience asked what he drank when he was writing. Ashbery: “Tea.” Guy: “What kind?” Ashbery, deadpan: “Lipton.”
Ashbery’s poetry inspired my first poem, at the age of twenty. His words breathed into me the abandon to explore the mirage of captured meaning, the illusion of time organically leading to epiphany.
Ashbery wrote to the accompaniment of music, and I’ll always associate him with Sibelius, as he wrote about returning to the Finnish composer with renewed appreciation after a hiatus. His poetry is among the most musical that I’ve ever read.
Respect and gratitude to Ashbery. Below, with a nod to nostalgia, short poems from the two early works mentioned above.