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The Writers Forum at SUNY Brockport

John Ashbery -- Poet

Host(s): A. Poulin, Jr.

Tape order number: C-362

Visit Date: November 27, 1972

Length: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Published as:

  • "The Experience of Experience: A Conversation with John Ashbery." Philip L. Gerber, Ed. Michigan Quarterly Review 20.3 (Summer 1981): 232-55.

Brief Summary: Ashbery refutes the idea that his poems are difficult or obscure, saying that he writes about generalized experiences that readers can dip into to connect with in their own ways. He stretches poetry to make it more inclusive. He also calls attention to the difficulty of knowing how the reader is going to find meaning in a poem. Ashbery doesn't consider his poems to be private and he writes about his experiences only obliquely. For Ashbery, poetic process is important.

Work(s) Discussed:

  • "The Skaters"
  • Some Trees
  • Tennis Court Oaths
  • The Double Dream of Spring

Work(s) Read:

  • "Leaving the Atocha Station"
  • Selections from "The New Spirit"
  • The first of Three Poems

Writers mentioned:

  • W. H. Auden
  • Wallace Stevens
  • Hart Crane
  • William Carlos Willians
  • Rimbaud
  • Baudelaire
  • Frank O'Hara
  • Kenneth Koch

I think that most of my poems are about the experience of experience... The particular occasion of experience is of less interest to me than the way happening or experience filters through to me.

-- John Ashbery

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