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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Study in John Ashbery

Dead Beat just couldn't get Ashbery (SeeDead Beat and John Ashbery Discuss Fame) off the phone.

"Ask me something else," Ashbery insists. "Ask me how I shape my collection of poems."

D. B. relents. "Go ahead then, how do you shape your collections of poems?"

"Funny you should ask that," Mr. A replies, "I know that many poets like to give theirs a shape and a... a beginning, a middle and an end... but mine really are just whatever poems I have lying around. And I don’t arrange them, really, except to alternate the long ones and the short ones, and to have the strongest ones at the beginning and the end, and the weaker ones in the middle. I think that’s my rule of thumb for putting together a book of poems."

"I see."

"Now ask me about my first book of poems."

"Why don't you tell me about your first book of poems?"

"Interesting question, Dead Beat. It was published by the Yale University Press, in their Yale Younger Poets Series, but they only printed something like eight hundred copies and it took eight years for it to go out of print, so I don’t think you could say it was a howling success. And it didn’t get any reviews, except for a few negative ones.One very nice review from Frank O’Hara, but I didn’t really count that. [Laughter]"

"Anything else, Mr. A?"

"Funny you should ask that..."

Dead Beat lay the phone down on the table and went to make himself a cup of tea?

What sort of tea Dead Beat?

Funny you should ask that...

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