Driving by the Lake With John Ashbery

1960s: Days of Rage

“It was convenient for John Ashbery, and dumb luck for me, that I was living in Rochester and could pick him up at the airport whenever he arrived from New York to visit his mother. Sometimes, because he didn’t like to fly, he’d arrive at the bus station instead; but I could meet him there too. It was an arrangement from which we both might profit, he explained, not profit in the American sense but in a way best expressed if you said it in French, profiter de. And thus we began my unexpected education, a kind of improvised fellowship with visiting tutor and bonus bits of wisdom delivered in French. John, as most anyone who follows poetry will know by now, was born in Rochester and raised on his father’s fruit farm in the next county to the east; though he spent a lot of time, as much…

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