An Australian Tribute to John Ashbery
Edited by Michael Farrell
Published by TinFish
Nicholas Powell | David Prater | Laurie Duggan | Louis Armand | Helen Hagemann | John Kinsella | Jeremy Balius | Craig Hallsworth | Jill Jones | Ken Bolton | Patrick Jones | Peter O’Mara | Kent MacCarter | Adam Ford | Jordie Albiston | Ali Alizadeh | Luke Beesley | Javant Biarujia | Ashley Capes | Wendy Fleming | Tim Grey | Matt Hall | Jennifer Harrison | Susan Hawthorne | Fiona Hile | D.J. Huppatz | Jeltje | Bella Li | Andrew Mahony | Peter Murphy | Jacek Pakul | Robyn E Peck | Peter Rose | Gig Ryan | Philip Salom | Chris Wallace-Crabbe | Stephen J. Williams | John Jenkins | Louise Crisp | Pam Brown | Joanne Burns | Michelle Cahill | Julie Chevalier | Chris Edwards | Toby Fitch | Tom Lee | Ruark Lewis | Mark Mahemoff | Kate Lilley | David Musgrave | Aden Rolfe | Hazel Smith | James Stuart | John Tranter | Les Wicks | Denis Gallagher | Peter Minter | Juno Gemes | Kit Kelen | Matt Hetherington | Stuart Cooke | B.R. Dionysius | Liam Ferney | Angela Gardner | A.J. Carruthers | Corey Wakeling | Tara Mokhtari | Oscar Schwartz
To rehearse the description of Eileen R. Tabios’s Witness in the Convex Mirror:
“When John Ashbery died in September, 2017, the obituaries noted that he had been a member of the New York School of poets, that his roots were in western New York State, and that, despite living for over a decade in Paris, his career had unfolded over many years in the City. Ashbery was, indeed, something of a local poet, constantly using references from the places he had lived. Lost in the very local memorials, however, was the fact that Ashbery’s work also influenced writers in the Pacific, including writers of color.”
When the editor of Tinfish Press wrote on a Facebook comment stream that she was interested in publishing work from the Pacific that responded to Ashbery’s poetry, she did not expect Michael Farrell to respond that he already had such a manuscript in hand. Ashbery Mode is that precise anthology, one that includes dozens of Australia’s best contemporary poets writing in the “mode” of Ashbery. Like his New York School colleague and friend, Frank O’Hara, Ashbery proved crucial in relaxing the strictures of Australian poetry, releasing it from its formal and tonal bonds. It’s wonderful to see Ashbery transmogrify into a local Australian poet. This book is a companion piece to Tabios’s Witness in the Convex Mirror and, like her book, shows how poetic influence gets activated across national and oceanic boundaries, as well as how source texts can open up into radically new perspectives.
The first thought that entered my head upon reading this anthology was that John Ashbery must actually be Australian, keeping that from us all these years, how could he have?! The second thing that crossed my mind was that imitation is much, much stranger and more enchanting than we have been led to believe, I am now convinced that John Ashbery, or some multiple of him, has disappeared but is still alive somewhere, writing something like the poems we’ve always loved. In fact, this slender volume is a place where you can actually visit him, say hello, and learn all kinds of wonderful new things about him. Hurray!
— Daniel Tiffany
Ashbery’s ghost checks his voice in the mirror of Australia and the poets rejoice! “Blazing blocks from the literature maven,” pleasures of influence and sidewalks of centos and exercises in style dazzle like Ashbery TV. Some of the poems grow serious and fertilize the grammars of history, “rising from peat to bloom”; some of the poems collapse in love; then everyone gets up to drink Ashbery coffee for this group portrait in a transverse country.
— Lisa Samuels
Just as Ashbery himself was fascinated with Australia’s infamous hoax poet Ern Malley, so too have Australian poets been highly attentive to Ashbery. Less a lyrebird mimicry and more a loving, expansive conversation with Ashbery, Ashbery Mode demonstrates how Ashbery’s expertise with form, seamless tonal shifts, and sense of humour can translate across cultures. Like Ashbery’s, some poems are experimental, others explore the intricacies of the sestina or pantoum, while others again take Ashbery’s topics and comic touch to new locales. Mixing well-known Ashbery enthusiasts like John Tranter and Peter Rose with a bevy of established and emerging writers, Ashbery Mode is a buzzing, punchy celebration of Ashbery’s growing presence in the world.
— Ann Vickery
Michael Farrell is from Bombala, NSW, and lives in Melbourne. Recent books include I Love Poetry (Giramondo), A Lyrebird: Selected Poems(Blazevox), and Writing Australian Unsettlement: Modes of Poetic Invention 1796-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan). His previous anthology project was Out of The Box: Australian Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Poets (Puncher and Wattmann), with Jill Jones. His chapbook thempark (Book Thug) uses Ashbery poems as a word count, and punctuation, template. His poem ‘john ashbery impersonator’ is included in ode ode(Salt).