Saturday, September 13, 2008

John Ashbery

There is a fine article in today's New York Times about the 81 year old poet John Ashbery and his first ever art exhibit. Ashbery is exhibiting collages from throughout his long and distinguished career at New York's Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Holland Carter's article, "The Poetry of Scissors and Glue," notes "That he was a childhood film freak helped form a Surrealist sensibility, though there were also more specific influences."

I mention Ashbery's interest in film because when I had the chance to meet the poet some half-dozen years ago, he told me of the time he met the silent film star Louise Brooks. At the time, as Holland Carter's article mentions, the poet was living in Paris where he was working as an art critic. Brooks was staying in a hotel where Ashbery was also in residence. And, because Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York and Brooks was then living in that upstate, New York city - the actress and the poet / journalist were introduced.

I can't rememeber how the subject of Louise Brooks came-up (though I suppose I am always talking about the actress), but it might of had to do with Ashbery's friends, the poets Frank O'Hara (wrongly identified in the NY Times article as John O'Hara) and Bill Berkson. Both had written poems "about" Louise Brooks, and both were fans of the actress' films. Ashbery, as it turned out, was also something of a fan.

p.s. Interestingly, Frank O'Hara's roommate in college was the illustrator / artist Edward Gorey, another admirer of Louise Brooks.

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