Driving by the Lake With John Ashbery

“It was convenient for John Ashbery, and dumb luck for me, that I was living in Rochester and could pick him up at the airport whenever he arrived from New York to visit his mother. Sometimes, because he didn’t like to fly, he’d arrive at the bus station instead; but I could meet him there too. It was an arrangement from which we both might profit, he explained, not profit in the American sense but in a way best expressed if you said it in French, profiter de. And thus we began my unexpected education, a kind of improvised fellowship with visiting tutor and bonus bits of wisdom delivered in French. John, as most anyone who follows poetry will know by now, was born in Rochester and raised on his father’s fruit farm in the next county to the east; though he spent a lot of time, as much as he could, at the home of his maternal grandparents at 69 Dartmouth Street. His grandfather was no farmer but a cultivated professor of physics, and the young John had let his preference show. Perhaps it was auspicious that we were only four blocks from that Dartmouth Street house the night we met. The director of the Rochester Oratorio Society was hosting a dinner party, which included among its guests a handsome assistant to Aaron Copland who drove up from New York. John had hitched a ride, crashed the party, and was slouched in the doorway of the dining room when he caught my eye. He was, to get this on record, sexy. He seemed intent on it. He was 45 that autumn night (I was 28) and he looked as he does in the now-famous photograph taken a year earlier by Gerard Malanga on Eighth Street—full mustache, unruly hair, and a practiced slouch that was part boredom and part come-hither-if-you-dare. Of course I hadn’t seen the photograph, didn’t recognize him, and would hardly have known a reason why I should. A friend identified him as a poet and supplied his name. With the instinctive opportunism you have when you’re young—apparently I had it, anyway—I detached myself from the friend, approached the mustache, and inquired if he was the John Ashbery. …”
Clear the Runway: John Ashbery’s Collected French Translations Land
amazon: Collected French Translations: Poetry, Collected French Translations: Prose
YouTube: John Ashbery: outtakes from the film series, USA: Poetry 46:37

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Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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