PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott 1930–2017
(PN Review 235)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Oxford University Press
Gratis Ad 1
Next Issue Kei Miller on poetry and volume control Parwana Fayyaz's Afghan poems Gabriel Josipovici bids farewell to Aharon Appelfeld Craig Raine plants a flag A.R. Ammons from two angles

This article is taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January - February 2018.

Can you hear Bird? Jeremy Over
DAUNTED BY the prospect of meeting W.H. Auden, one of his poetry idols, John Ashbery asked Kenneth Koch what you were supposed to say to someone like Auden. Koch suggested that just about the only thing to say was ‘I’m glad you’re alive’. I carefully rehearsed a witty variation on this theme once after a London reading, as I waited in line to get my copy of Chinese Whispers signed by Ashbery, with a copy of my own first book concealed just beneath my cloak. The nervous blurt that I subsequently managed to deliver fell somewhat short of its target. Ashbery just gazed benevolently upon me, or perhaps a little over my shoulder and, with the bemused air of a discreetly avant-garde member of the Royal family, apologised for his lack of hearing but yes, of course he’d be delighted to read my book if I’d care to send a copy via his publisher.

It’s rather late in the day to try and get this right again now, but seeing as the opportunity has arisen I’m glad you were alive John Ashbery and will be, for quite some time, under our ‘boot-soles’ as it were. So thank you. And thank you, by the way, for not dying from a spinal infection in 1982, but instead giving us another thirty-five years and seventeen more books. Thank you for becoming the ‘later’ John Ashbery before you became the late one. The later Ashbery was the one I knew and loved.

Thank you for all your generous poetry and essays. And ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image