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

Remembers Miles Champion
I FEEL FOOLISH for having taken John for granted these past twenty-five years. Our time – as in, all of ours – has felt so predominantly his (the Ashbery Era) that I somehow thought he would always be here. As Trevor Winkfield remarked, a day or two after John’s death, ‘It’s like the death of Picasso; no one knows what to say.’

I feel foolish too for the times when I stupidly thought I had a sufficient sense of what John was up to in his poems, and so didn’t need to keep up with his books. Objective chance would always place the necessary newspaper or magazine within reach, and I would open it to find something of John’s that was simply astonishing. No choice but to keep reading, and to read everything he wrote. And always the sense of great good fortune, the sure knowledge that, were any other poet to occupy John’s position in literature, they would be so much less singular, less fun, less generous, less interesting. His extraordinary influence reached far beyond poetry, deep into music, art, film. And yet, somehow, he remained absolutely untouched by his fame: modest and self-effacing to the end, always full of encouragement and enthusiasm for younger poets – a model for us all in every respect.

Some snapshots, a few of many: at a reading in the early nineties, John announced he would read the ‘sunflower’ double sestina from Flow Chart; he then spent several minutes leafing back and forth through the book, trying to find ...


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