Merwin published an excellent selected volume in 2017, which I reviewed in this magazine. I was finishing it up when I heard of the death of John Ashbery, who was born in the same year as Merwin. I remember thinking that Ashbery, in his bland, white high-rise in Chelsea, and Merwin, in his palm garden in Hawaii, were like the gates of the rising and the setting sun. American sentries: Ashbery faced east (his actual apartment faced slightly west; just go with it), and kept an eye on reality as it approached, always monitoring its fresh and new and bewildering presentations…Read More
John Ashbery makes an appearance via a new Swedish-Engligh bilingual book of poems, as reported in Irish newspaper the Leinster Leider:
Kildare man launches new book of poetry
DESCRIBED AS ENTERING THE SURREAL SURROUNDINGS OF A REAL AND IMAGINED CARLOW WHERE HE LIVES AND WORKS
By Conor McHugh
12 Mar 2019
Kill man Dr Derek Coyle will launch a book of his original poems, ‘Reading John Ashbery in Costa Coffee, Carlow’, at Carlow College, St Patrick’s on Wednesday, April 10 at 7.30 in Cobden Hall.
A former student of Naas CBS and Maynooth University, Dr Coyle lectures in English Literature and Creative Writing at Carlow College, St Patrick’s.
The book is a dual language text consisting of original poems in English with their Swedish translation. Peter Nyberg has translated the poems into Swedish, and Magnus Grehn Förlag is the publisher. The President of Carlow College, St Patrick’s, Fr Conn Ó Maoldhomhnaigh, will host the evening and the writer Peter Murphy will launch the book.
Once you open the pages of this intriguing collection, you enter the surreal surroundings of a real and imagined Carlow. Here Mozart and Beethoven drink pints in Tully’s bar. And a busy and preoccupied Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol work hard in New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel, but manage to miss the Tiger of Annam who travels past them and on through the tunnels of time to end up in Carlow.
Whilst there, he strolls past Woodie’s on his way to the Barrow in a continuing search for a true north. And in this Carlow you will find the Coyle’s fellow Kildare man Christy Moore jamming outside the local Tesco with three musicians from a Picasso painting, and dressed like Ziggy Stardust, in an impromptu protest against the invasive nature of contemporary capitalism.
Carlow is not the only location. You also encounter Tranås, a town very similar in style and character to Carlow, but buried in the heartland of Sweden’s lake and forest country, halfway between Malmo and Stockholm on the train line. In this Tranås, you will encounter the legendary Swedish poet Magnus Larsson who wrote about lonely whales and unlucky jockeys in poems that were the talk of literary society across Europe and beyond (even outer space).
Where life in this Swedish town shares similarities with life in rural Ireland in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s. Here the shops close on Sundays, and fathers and sons spend their time fishing by the lakes, admiring the exploits of Ove Fundin, the world Speedway Champion, immortalized atop a bronze motorbike in a statue at the centre of the town.
In poems of touching delicacy, Coyle evokes a very human world of suffering, injustice and tragedy. ‘The Shoulder’ recalls a tender moment shared between the German speaking Czech writer Franz Kafka and Milena Jesenská, both of whom would die tragically young; he from tuberculosis and she in a Nazi concentration camp.
‘The Charred Boots’ relates in an almost timeless way, the tragic loss of a child in a freak fire, as related by her ghostly voice, as she recounts the impact of this tragedy on her mourning parents.
The collection’s title poem, ‘Reading John Ashbery in Costa Coffee, Carlow’, whilst evoking the humorous presence of James Joyce, Gandhi and John Lennon, ends somewhat surprisingly with a reference to the ongoing Syrian conflict.
While the poems playfully engage with the possibilities opened up by contemporary physics, especially quantum theory, they are humane in a way that is timeless and challenging. Deeply engaged with contemporary reality, these poems constantly surprise, uplift and transform.
Derek Coyle has published poems in Ireland, Britain, Sweden and the U.S. He has been shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, been runner-up in the Bradshaw Prize and he has featured in the Poetry Ireland ‘Poetry Introductions’ series. He represented Ireland at an international literary residency in Tranås in Sweden, as a guest of Kultivera, and he has featured in the International Poetry Festival in Jönköping.
He is a founding member of the Carlow Writers’ Co-Operative.
Elissa Gabbert’s “The Word Pretty” (Black Ocean, 2018) a delightful collection of lyrical essays on “writing, reading, and living,” includes this reference to and quote from Wayne Koestenbaum’s “My 1980s and Other Essays” (FSG, 2013), in her essay “The Art of the Paragraph” on pages 66-67, in writing about transitions between paragraphs. Enjoy this double Ashbery sighting…Read More
PERSONAS in the Area at Art 14
Inspired by John Ashbery's poem "Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror,” the Pleisys theatre group presents "Personas" at the 14th Day Art Space from January 12, 2019.
A multimedia performance of body theater. The theme is the poetic introduction of the viewer into the "world of the self" defined by the concepts, "I notice, I discover, I connect, I carry within my memory.”Read More
Kasmin Gallery’s current jewel of an exhibition is “Works from the Collection of John Ashbery”—yes, that John Ashbery, the poet whose accolades included a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a MacArthur “genius” grant. Ashbery died last year at 90, and his vast private art collection is now being sold by Kasmin, in association with the Eric Brown Art Group.Read More
Kasmin is pleased to announce an exhibition of selected works from the collection of the celebrated New York poet and art critic, John Ashbery (1927 – 2017). Bringing together paintings, drawings, and collages by artists such as Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, Helen Frankenthaler, Fairfield Porter, Joe Brainard, and Larry Rivers, the presentation reflects the deep-rooted artistic and personal associations amongst a group of artists and poets who, between them, defined New York’s downtown scene for almost two decades from the 1950s onwards.Read More
…Now she inhabits the upper air, where moods are painful to sustain. The language will be arriving later, she misreads. Language = luggage, baggage, the sadness of rain. Ashbery has died, comma, Ashbery has died.
The prolific collage work that John Ashbery produced over the last decade of his life is remarkable because it allows new insights into the creative process of one of America's most reticent poets. But what many saw as a poet's late foray into the visual arts was, in reality, a return to an early vocation that somehow morphed into complex hybrids. Composition, whether with images or words, was Ashbery's métier and collage had been his technique of choice since the beginning of his career as a poet. The mixing of visual arts and literature was also a distinctive trait in the works of authors that have been of central interest to Ashbery, namely French writer Raymond Roussel, and American outsider artist Henry Darger. Ashbery, like Roussel and Darger, conveyed narrative through the juxtaposition of seemingly random imagery that left to the reader the task of filling the gaps and making connections.Read More
Hudson, NY (3 September 2018)—On the one year anniversary of the passing of John Ashbery (1927 - 2017), one of the world’s greatest poets, The Flow Chart Foundation—a nonprofit organization dedicated to his legacy—launches anew, announcing the hiring of Jeffrey Lependorf, longtime Executive Director of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the national arts service organization for independent literary publishing, to become its Executive Director beginning this November.Read More
The Tibor de Nagy Gallery is pleased to present, John Ashbery, Oh, What Fun! an exhibition of the poet and artist's collages made between 2015 and 2017, prior to the artist’s death in September 2017. This will be Ashbery’s fourth solo exhibition at the gallery and his first at the gallery’s Rivington Street location.Read More