Sunday, March 16, 2014

New York Poets

I devote some space in my upcoming autobiography to a paperback book I bought in October 1970 when I was a student at the University of Georgia. It was called An Anthology of New York Poets, and it changed my life.

Because it has been on my mind lately, I decided to look up the 28 poets in that volume and see what became of them. Some, like Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, are justifiably famous. Others have grown a bit more obscure over the nearly 44 years that have passed.

To my surprise, all but seven are still alive and productive. And most of those who died lived a reasonably normal lifespan. The only exception was O'Hara, who was killed at the age of 40 in a hideous, pointless accident involving a dune buggy on Fire Island in the summer of 1966.

The only one I ever met was Ashbery, who is in my judgement and that of many, one of finest American poets of the Twentieth Century. And he continues to write.

I imagine you had a book that you read in college that changed you. This one changed me, and I will be forever grateful to Ron Padgett and David Shapiro, who edited it.

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