Art and Literature – John Ashbery, Anne Dunn, Rodrigo Moynihan, and Sonia Orwell. Paris (1964–67)

“On Monday, November 5th, I attended the John Ashbery reading at the Folger Library in Washington DC. I found out about it at the last minute and assumed that it would be sold out (like a Ferlinghetti reading years before) but tickets were still available on Friday afternoon. I was surprised, but apparently a lot of people have never heard of the man considered by many to be ‘the greatest living American poet.’ And of those who have, quite a few have not read his work. Ashbery is like Pynchon, a name to be thrown around and discussed at a certain kind of dinner party to demonstrate your wide reading even if you have not done the heavy lifting of actually turning the pages. In the case of Pynchon’s Against the Day that is a lot of pages. As I have written in the Bunker, Ashbery’s and Burroughs’ literary concerns and personal lives seem to circle around each other without actually meeting. Paris in the 1950s, New York in the mid-1960s, the use of the cut-up technique at roughly the same time (Tennis Court Oath in 1962 overlaps chronologically with Burroughs’ cut-up trilogy). In addition, both writers made a much anticipated return to the United States after long exile. Their arrival in New York City occurred at roughly the same time. On their returns, both writers exerted a tremendous influence on the New York scene, particularly the Lower East Side, right before the Summer of Love. Ted Berrigan, for example, courted both Ashbery and Burroughs in 1964-1965. Burroughs and Ashbery appeared in some of the same little mags and, more interesting to me, Ashbery included Burroughs in the mags he had a hand in creating: Locus Solus and Art and Literature. Clearly, Ashbery recognized that Burroughs, unlike most of the Beats, had a tie to the European avant garde back to Dada and Surrealism. These ties went forward as well to the post-abstract expressionist concerns that circulated on the Continent in the early 1960s. Burroughs’ reputation has come a long way, but as much as it pains me to say it, he is still a cult figure in the mind of the mainstream (read: New York-based publishing houses that control the more established awards and fill the bulk of what passes for literary reviews with content and advertising). At present, Ashbery has left the literary scene represented by Locus Solus and Art and Literature behind. Ashbery described those publications to me as ‘fringe.’ …”
RealityStudio: John Ashbery at the Folger Library
From a Secret Location: Art and Literature – John Ashbery, Anne Dunn, Rodrigo Moynihan, and Sonia Orwell. Paris (1964–67)
BOMB: John Ashbery by Adam Fitzgerald
W – “The Skaters”, (47:53) – read by Ashbery at the Washington Square Art Gallery in New York City, August 23, 1964.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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