Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remembering John Ashbery

When I was a 21 year old from Iowa, I spent the summer of 1983 taking classes at Naropa, in Boulder, Colorado. Anne Waldman, knowing how much I loved John Ashbery’s writing, recommended I go to New York City and study with John where he was then teaching in the MFA Program at Brooklyn College. I moved to New York (having never visited the city before) in August, 1985 after I was accepted into the program. By the time I arrived on campus to register for classes, John’s name was nowhere to be found. The registrar told me he was now a MacArthur Fellow and would not be coming back to the college. Jump cut to spring of 2013 when I received an email from John (after having never even met him, I was always too shy to introduce myself to him). In his email, he told me he loved a chapbook of mine he’d just read titled, Flushing Meadows (Scary Topiary Press, 2012). John said he’d used “the Google” to find out more about me and that he had several of my other books on order. I was flattered beyond words, but I also thought that the email might have been a prank of some sort (John’s name was not in his email address). I emailed my friend, the poet Marcella Durand, his former assistant, and asked her if the email address was legit. “Yes,” she replied, “Congratulations.” So began 4 years of visiting John and his husband David Kermani at regular intervals at their Chelsea apartment. The absolute pleasure that John took in the world was inspiring. He was incredibly curious and knowledgeable about nearly everything and that made him one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever met. I loved cracking him up when I would goofily speak fake French to him or do a little song and dance to an imaginary musical as he sat in his chair laughing. Even though David showed rightful concern whenever I would sneak John one of his favorite donuts from a nearby Donut Plant, they always made me feel at home in their home. I loved it when John would pull a few titles from the stacks of books that sat by the side of his chair and read to me. A special treat was when he read Pierre Reverdy’s “Voyage sans fin” in French while I sat there thinking this might be the best thing ever. I wish I’d recorded it. His sweetness during those visits, his humor, his generosity, his enthusiasm, his encouragement, and his introductions to so many friends I now hold dear continue to bring me joy. I feel grateful to have known John during the last 4 years of his life. He was a good man.

Todd Colby, 2017
for more tributes to John Ashbery visit the Poetry Foundation.

Barred Island, 2017 (acrylic and India ink on canvas, 11" x 14")

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Grant Hart, Rest in Peace

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Two

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Three

Sticker City

Monday, July 31, 2017

Red Weather, 2017 (acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14")

The Americans, 2017 (acrylic on canvas, 11" x 14")

Brooklyn Poets Anthology

I'm delighted to have been included in this fantastic anthology! Thanks to Jason Koo and Joe Pan.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Four (acrylic and graphite on canvas, 11" x 14")

Monday, June 19, 2017

Nine Fields (acrylic & graphite on canvas, 11" x 14")