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This interview is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

Talks to John Ashbery: The Boyhood of John Ashbery Mark Ford


MARK FORD: I thought we might start chronologically: you were born on 28 July 1927. Does that make you a Leo?

JOHN ASHBERY: Yes, with Virgo rising. I was born at 8.20 am, and there was a thunderstorm at the time, which may be significant.

That was in Rochester?

Yes. My parents lived near a small farming community about thirty miles east of Rochester, called Sodus. My father and his father had bought some farmland near Lake Ontario, where they grow a lot of fruit, mainly apples, cherries and peaches. There is a narrow band along the edge of Lake Ontario where fruit is grown. Just a few miles south the climate and the crops are different.

Did he plant the fruit trees himself?

Yes, with his own hands, like Johnny Appleseed! His father had owned a rubber stamp factory in Buffalo, which I can't imagine was very prosperous - at least I don't think they produced them in mass quantities. For whatever reason, the Ashbery family wanted to leave the city, and they bought this farm in around 1915.

Was your mother keen on farming as well?

No. She was from the city and her father was a professor of Physics at the University of Rochester. In fact he was quite famous locally and did the first x-ray experiments in the US ...
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