If you haven't made your way over to PennSound today, you ought to. They've posted some fresh audio and video of John Ashbery from his recent visit to the Kelly Writers House. Also added is a November 2, 2011 reading at Smith College. More about that:

In his intro to that event, Michael Thurston offers a brief history of critics' attempts to make sense of Ashbery's poetry, and revels in its blithe resistance to any such efforts. He opines that "we should read him by taking seriously the root meanings of the word 'poetry,'" — namely the Greek verb poesis, "to make" — before concluding with the notion that, "The best way to understand such work might be to stop trying to understand it." In this set, Ashbery begins with poems from his then-latest collection, Planisphere, before moving on to selections from his translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations and work that would eventually be published in Quick Question. Jumping forward nearly a year, we have a new hour-long reading from UMass-Amherst, recorded on September 20, 2012, which also showcases work from Quick Question.

Thanks for letting us off the hook, Michael Thurston! And be sure to check out the audio and video from Ashbery's visit to the Kelly Writers House. A teaser of that:

Monday night's hour-long reading is available as individual MP3s, as well as audio and video recordings of the complete event, and proceeds in chronological order, starting with perennial favorites like "And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name," and "What Is Poetry," alongside contemporary work from Ashbery's lastest collection, Quick Question.

That's followed by a seventy-five minute live Q&A session with Al Filreis, conducted Tuesday afternoon at the poet's home in Chelsea and webcast to the Writers House (and viewers worldwide). Complete audio and video recordings are available, and Anna Zalokostas, the conversations's been divided into thematic segments, from "on humor in Ashbery's poems" to "on aging, forgetfulness, and looking back at early work," and "on writing that deals with institutions and bureaucracies." The talk concludes with a reading and discussion of "Just Walking Around," which Filreis sees as a keystone idea in Ashbery's observational poetics.

Head over to check out the rest of the 62 years of Ashbery offerings.


Originally Published: February 20th, 2013