I first met John Ashbery in 1965, in a laundry room in Louisville, KY. He was short, dark, with a pronounced limp in both legs, & he spoke with a pronounced Canadian accent, probably due to his years in Saskatchewan as a member of the Canadian Mounties. It was only five years later, after I had already published my first seven books of poetry, that I learned that the John Ashbery I had known all those years was not the John Ashbery, the famous poet. My John Ashbery used to vilify the School of Quietude into the wee hours of the morning, while drinking glass after glass of strong Turkish coffee laced with creme de cacao (the only liqueur left in the storage room of the bunkhouse, located down a slope of jack pines, behind the warehouse, just before you reach the storage room). Why my JA had taken such a visceral, vivisectory attitude toward a group of poets who, in all innocence, had never become conscious of their debt to English-Continental traditional versification and social attitudes (though you wonder why the implications of the jodhpurs & smoking jackets & Sherlock Holmes-style smoking caps and longjohns & periwinkles & hobnobberies & gaiters & socks & fleabag hotels in seedy Birmingham never occurred to them) is a question I have for long striven & stroven to answer to my own satisfaction, without success. The recent developments & improvements in poetry education in America, due to the deluge of New American methods of reading (outlined in a recent New Yorker article on the other John Ashbery, and further amplified here) have fortunately put to rest a certain amiable, droll, amateurish, sacre-bleu, bon-vivant, recherche, de rigueur, dibbly-dabbly, tadpole methodology which has saturated the literary atmosphere of the world for nigh on 4 decades now, ever since Firkham Punctilious published the inaugural issue of his Littler Magazine, wherein the Old American school of poetry attempted one last stand, dressing up as Gordon Lord George at Khartoum, swords drawn, facing the rabid mob of trolls. How this brand of syncopated antiquity ever came to dominate the poetry scene of our world is a puzzle for future literary historians to unravel, I will leave it to them, but I will say : we are truly fortunate to obtain habitation in a time period of such lush growth of New American poetry, because now, as we know, reading is a very special and the toast is ready, as they say, in the School of Jumping Gophers, of which we are proudly each a member.

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