Sunday, February 6, 2011

Koch vs. Ashbery - Sparring Poets

John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch
From the website This Recording, an audio and visual recording archive, comes this transcript of a hilarious and brilliant 1965 interview of John Ashbery by his friend Kenneth Koch. The two acerbic poets really go at it. Here's a taste:
JA: Let's ignore for the moment at least your enigmatic statement that the way things come together reminds you of Florence –

KK: I did not say that.

JA: Anyway I wish you would explain for me and our readers –

KK: Listeners.

JA: – why we seem to omit references to the cities in which we are living, in our work. This is not true of most American poetry. Shudder.

KK: Hmm. I guess we do. I did write one poem about New York while I was in New York, but the rest of the poems about America I wrote in Europe.

JA: I repeat, why we seem to omit ALMOST all references – ?

KK: I find it gets to be too difficult to get through my everyday associations with things familiar to me for me to be able to use them effectively in poetry.

JA: Snore.

KK: I myself am bored by my attempts to make abstract statements and wish I could do it as facilely as you do. I'm going to cut out my previous statement. What made you snore?

JA: Well, if you're cutting out your statement, then my snore naturally goes with it, I suppose.

KK: Maybe I won't cut it out. Or I might just keep the snore.

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