October 16, 2007

I wouldn't be here
if it wasn't right in front of me

Ori Gersht, Time After Time -- Blowup Number One, 2007

* From Harper's November 2007:

-- Amount that a U.S. Army private paid a man to shoot him in the leg last July to avoid another tour in Iraq: $500

-- Estimated amount that teacher turnover costs U.S. school districts each year in recruiting and training: $7,000,000,000

-- Percentage of Americans that have not read a book in the past year: 27

-- Maximun number of 'unsaved' players permitted per team in a Massachusetts evangelical softball league: 4

-- Estimated percentage of women's college sports teams that were coached by women when Title IX was enacted in 1972: 90

-- Percentage today: 42

* John Ashbery interviewed by Terrance Winch (in 1984). excerpt:

TW: Have you ever thought about writing your autobiography or memoirs?

Ashbery: No, I haven’t. I suppose for the same reason that I don’t write autobiographical poetry – it doesn’t seem to me that I have any autobiography. But maybe I do, and some people might be interested.

TW: I think they would be.

Ashbery: The fact is I’ve drifted through life without paying much attention to what’s been happening to me.

TW: That seems like your poems, more than like you. Do you ever want to write more fiction? I was looking at A Nest of Ninnies…

Ashbery: Yes. I would like to very much, as a matter of fact, but I don’t have time to do it. In order to be a poet, the luxury of being a poet. I have two jobs.

TW: What are you doing besides writing for Newsweek?

Asbery: I teach at Brooklyn College.

TW: How does your art criticism for Newsweek fit into your own sense of your work? Is it part of your work in your mind, or is it just something you do to survive?

Ashbery: I’d say that I probably wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to make a living. But I find it interesting to write for 'a mass audience' about art… And I enjoy the exercise in communication in this way. I think it helps more in my poetry in that my poetry comes out differently. It sharpens my sense of trying to communicate something.

TW: I was interested in something you said in your recent review of the Bonnard show at the Phillips Collection here in Washington. You mentioned something about the paintings having more darkness in them, than was immediately apparent. When I saw the show, I was looking at the Bonnard paintings and thinking, I don’t see any darkness here. I wondered if the comment was a reflection of your state of mind. It seems to me that A Wave was much more painful than any of your other books. It’s clear that dealing with getting older and dying is, it seems to me, part of the emotional impulse behind the book.

Ashbery: Actually, that remark about Bonnard is probably a flaw in the article, because I think I meant to develop that idea and I sort of left it hanging. But I think you can see what I mean in the self-portraits.

TW: The self-portraits definitely had a heavier touch.

Ashbery: It’s even there in one painting Newsweek reproduced. 'The Studio and Mimosa, Le Cannet,' where you can barely see the woman’s face – it looks like she’s getting pushed out of the picture by a mass of yellow stuff.

TW: I think of you as one of America’s major poets and it seems ridiculous that you don’t have the financial freedom to just write poetry.

Ashbery: That’s what comes from being a poet. If I were a novelist… But, then, no one ever forced e to write poetry.

* "Remember, tomorrow is promised to no one." -- Walter Payton


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