John Ashbery

  • Bill Berkson in 2011. Photo: John Suiter.
    passages July 13, 2016

    Bill Berkson (1939-2016)

    I ALWAYS THINK of Bill as young, so it comes as a shock to realize that he was old when he died this summer. I first met him in Paris, where he had accompanied Frank O’Hara on a trip in the early ’60s, and it was cheering to know that New York was still turning out glamorous, articulate young creatures. He and Frank had just finished writing their poems about Saint Brigid’s Church on Tompkins Square, something I had seen in the past but never bothered to assay as poetry material. It was a joy to show Bill and Frank, who were staying in Joan Mitchell’s studio I believe, the wonders of Paris. At

  • Jane Freilicher and John Ashbery at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 1952. Photo: Walter Silver.
    passages January 19, 2015

    Jane Freilicher (1924–2014)

    I’M WRITING THIS in a room that contains a number of pictures, mostly by women, as it happens. One is by Jane Freilicher, a still life in pastel that brings together a half-dozen miscellaneous objects, including a few roses that are having the floral equivalent of a bad hair day, a reddish-brown pamphlet that was probably an address book sent to customers by the phone company (remember those?) and a copy of Art News, flopping over the edge of the table, confronting the viewer, in the time-honored tradition of trompe-l'oeil perspective, but also subtly spoofing it. Jane gave the pastel to me

  • More Pleasant Adventures

    More Pleasant Adventures
    The first year was like icing.
    Then the cake started to show through.
    Which was fine, too, except you forget the direction you’re taking.
    Suddenly you are interested in some new thing
    And can’t tell how you got here. Then there is confusion
    Even out of happiness, like a smoke—
    The words get heavy, some topple over, you break others.
    And outlines disappear once again.

    Heck, it’s anybody’s story,
    A sentimental journey—“gonna take a sentimental journey,”
    And we do, but you wake up under the table of a dream:
    You are that dream, and it is the seventh layer of you.
    We haven’t