by Eric Lorberer
When Micaela Morrisette first mentioned the idea of a Created Spaces symposium on John Ashbery’s domestic environments, I was elated. I had recently composed a verbo-visual presentation concerning the untitled poem by Ashbery that graces a magnificent, Siah Armajani-designed bridge at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (a presentation I have been privileged to give in several cities around the country, and to publish in a slightly abridged textual form in the fine literary magazine jubilat). Working on this talk gave me the welcome excuse to re-read John Ashbery’s amazing body of work, and to discover in it a finely-tuned exaltation of spatiality I hadn’t quite noticed before—an important, self-regulating corrective to the temptation some readers may have to view the work as too “abstract.” Visits to the poet’s homes in Hudson and Manhattan confirmed my sense of Ashbery as a profoundly proprioceptive poet, and for a moment I toyed with dropping everything so I could write about these environments vis-à-vis the texts that have provided me and countless others with such sheer joy.
Fortunately, there were others more knowledgeable than me about Ashbery’s “created spaces” who were ready to share their views, and I am exceedingly pleased to make their works available for readers who wish to deepen their relationship with one of America’s greatest poets. Some of these studies in Ashbery’s delightfully spatial discourse are scholarly, others impressionistic, but they are all, to my mind, astute and heartfelt. We at Rain Taxi Review of Books are honored to celebrate the poet’s eighty-first birthday with their publication here.
28 July, 2008