Disciples Gather to Worship Prophet of Poetry


For the poet who’s been a prophet for at least one generation of readers and writers, the New School assembles a meeting house full of disciples. John Ashbery has been producing volumes since the days when Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, and the rest of their cohort roamed the East Village. And he’s still around—producing over 20 books in 50 years of sometimes fatigued, fantastic, and light-headed poetics—the last living legend of the luminous movement that changed all too quickly from subversive to canon. David Lehman, a New School professor, poet, and New York School specialist, puts the pieces together of what has invented, echoed, and reacted to the legacy of “the poet-laureate of spaciness,” as Ashbery was once called by a critic. Three days of readings by an eclectic and international assembly of poets—including Billy Collins, Jorie Graham, James Tate, and Ashbery himself—speak his language and to the breadth of his influence. In a landmark finale, Ashbery, Ann Lauterbach, Dara Wier, and Tate recite simultaneously the double columns of “Litany”—which, in true Ashberian, plays best as conversation.