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A Conversation about John Ashbery

Four American authors Geoffery G. O’Brien, Ben Lerner, Mónica de la Torre, and John Yau assembled at Pioneer Works in December 2015 to celebrate one of America's great poets, John Ashbery, who turned eighty-eight last year. Following this conversation the group joined the poet onstage and participated in reading his work (see Part 2).

Ben Lerner made vivid the influence that Ashbery's complex and controversial writing has had on and continues to have on poets, stating "Among the many marvels of John Ashbery’s poetry as a whole is the way that his pronouns, particularly the I and the you, fill and empty and fill again as you read—like some sea creature or the chambers of the human heart."

About the participants:

Ben Lerner has been a Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellow, among other honors. He is the author of two novels: Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, and three poetry collections: The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. His monograph, The Hatred of Poetry, is due out Spring 2016.

Geoffrey G. O’Brien is the author of People on Sunday (Wave Books, 2013). His earlier books Metropole (2011), Green and Gray (2007), and The Guns and Flags Project (2002) were all published by The University of California Press. O’Brien is an Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley and also teaches for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.

Mónica de la Torre’s The Happy End/All Welcome is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2016. Previous poetry books include Public Domain (Roof Books, 2009) and Talk Shows (Switchback, 2007), as well as two collections in Spanish. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, Convolution, frieze, Triple Canopy’s Corrected Slogans, The White Review, and the New Museum’s 2015 triennial volume The Animated Reader. She is BOMB Magazine’s senior editor.

John Yau is a poet, fiction writer, critic, curator, publisher of the literary press, Black Square Editions, and editor of the online magazine, Hyperallergic Weekend. His latest publications include the monographs Catherine Murphy (forthcoming), Richard Artschwager: Into the Desert (2015) and A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns (2009), and the poetry book Further Adventures in Monochrome (2012). He is Professor of Critical Studies in the Visual Arts Department at the Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University).


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