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December 07, 2012

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Jim.
This is absolutely delightful, both for what you say about language and the discovery of Ashbery's work (if I remember rightly David S. and Jon Anderson discovered Ashbery in Iowa)but also for the personal connections (always such a rush: I had the same experience with Phil Levine maybe a year later when he was lonely in Cincinnati). I think this is the year you and I met too. John came up to Antioch to give a talk, I believe (he replicated this at Colby some years later), and he was very puck-ish during the q. and A, telling students when you got older you didn't have to revise. Then he gave a reading from Self-Portrait just before it came out, and so many of his poems had cross-outs and marginalia. He was delightful but shy, and it was only on the way to the airport to his next stop that we "inhaled" as we were wont to do and we had about an hour and a half laughing fit. He had so much of the high and low culture that both you and I admire so much, I understand the privilege of your spending extended time with him. Cheers, and thanks for the beautiful piece. It's fun hard work doing this, isn't it?Ira

Great to hear from you, Ira; I just finished your new book; wonderful poems. What's that line? "We're not getting older, just better"? Well, at least we're getting older; hope the latter is true, too. I remember fondly that flight back from Vancouver when we talked for three hours. I think we first met during the Levine stay; I remember getting lost on the way to Antioch. Also, I saw your uncle on a KOJAC episode, or HILL STREET BLUES, around then. Laughing like you describe above is a gift, my version of Jonathan Edwards' definition of grace. You're right: this is fun hard work, much tougher than what you think you sign up for! Thank you for your note; I hope all is the greatest for you.

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