John Ashbery: MTV Poet Laureate?

MtvU, the subsidiary of MTV Networks that is broadcast only on college campuses, has announced the selection of its first poet laureate. Surprisingly, they've chosen 80-year-old poet, John Ashbery. I generally like Ashbery's poetry and was honored to have met him at a reading last year at Yale, however, I'm a bit shocked by MTV's decision to pick him since his verse tends to be somewhat outside the mainstream and is often thought of as being quite the daunting read. But hey, if this leads young people to discover Ashbery's poetry or even to become curious about verse, I'm all for it.

From The New York Times:

No, he doesn’t rap. And it’s not Bob Dylan, or even Justin Timberlake.

It is John Ashbery, the prolific 80-year-old poet and frequent award winner known for his dense, postmodern style and playful language. One of the most celebrated living poets, Mr. Ashbery has won MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.”

Though his roots are in 1950s bohemia, Mr. Ashbery is perhaps not the most obvious choice for the iPod generation. He works on a typewriter and doesn’t listen to popular music, with the exception of a chance encounter with the Peaches & Herb song “Reunited” in a cab in the 1980s; it inspired his poem “The Songs We Know Best.” (“Just like a shadow in an empty room/Like a breeze that’s pointed from beyond the tomb/Just like a project of which no one tells-/Or didja really think that I was somebody else?”)

More here.

How to read John Ashbery from Slate.

MtvU Poet Laureate - John Ashbery website
, where you can watch video excerpts of Ashbery's poems and also read the complete pieces.

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