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This interview is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

In Conversation with John Ash Jeffrey Kahrs
This interview is taken from a series of conversations I had with John Ash in the spring of 2010. We met several times and always chatted around four or five in the afternoon for an hour to an hour and a half, when the sunlight would come through his windows for a short while. This was the best time to catch him because he usually read and wrote in the early afternoon, sipping on his rakı, so by the time we spoke later he was lubricated but still cogent, which often meant he was feeling contrary. Interviewing John took patience. He hated to be photographed, refused to sell his manuscripts – even though he certainly could have used the money – and rarely acquiesced to even the shortest of interviews. I persevered because I knew his health was more fragile than he was willing to admit and he was both an important writer and a friend.  

Jeffrey: You said your father was a geography teacher. Is that how you became a traveller?

John: I think possibly because, before my father got married and settled down and had children, he would go all over Europe. He had friends in Vienna, so he’d go all the way across Europe on his motorbike.

When did you write your first poem?

I can tell you very precisely. I was reading a book by Brigid Brophy. She mentioned that the great Watteau painting The Departure for Cythera was actually the Departure from Cythera. I thought, ‘Okay, ...

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