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Hybrid Hybrid Event
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(Hybrid) John Ashbery: a Life of Poetry

Tue 17 October 2023 @ 19 h 30 - 20 h 30

Hybrid Hybrid Event

John Ashbery, one of the most celebrated poets of American history, is revealed in a never-before-seen light. Discover where life and poetry intertwine with historian Karin Roffman.

John Ashbery, one of the most renowned American poets of all time, was celebrated for his avant-garde and often surrealistic approach to poetry. Who was the master behind the pen, and how did his life influence his work? Through interviews with Ashbery, study of his diaries, and discovery of early, unpublished poetry, biographer Karin Roffman traces the development of the poet across inner turmoils, from sexuality and family strife, to triumphs such as a prize bestowed by W.H. Auden. How did the shy, sensitive boy depicted in Roffman’s writing become a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet? If, as Ashbery writes, “Our question of a place of origin hangs / Like smoke”, Roffman has given us the tools to ask the smoky question. She will speak at the Library about Ashbery’s remarkable and singular voice, and the relationship between poetry and life.

Learn more:

Ashbery’s poem “Some Trees” was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award of 1956. Read it here

Music was central to Ashbery’s artistic vision: poetry, for him, must strive to reach “the condition of music.” Listen to a playlist crafted by Roffman showcasing selected pieces from his music library. 

About the speaker:

Karin Roffman, author of The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) which was named one of the 100 notable books for 2017 by the New York Times, is currently completing a full biography. In 2019, in collaboration with the Yale University Digital Humanities Lab, she released John Ashbery’s Nest, a virtual tour and website on John Ashbery’s Hudson house. Her recent essay, “John Ashbery’s Music Library: A Playlist”; appeared in Evergreen Review (March 2021). Her essays on 20 th and 21 st century writers and painters have appeared in Raritan, Modern Fiction Studies, Artforum, Rain Taxi, Yale Review, Chicago Review, Wallace Stevens Journal and others. Her first book, From the Modernist Annex, won the Elizabeth Agee American Literature prize. She is currently senior lecturer of Humanities and Associate Director of Public Humanities at Yale University.

Important information: The discussion will be available both online and in person. While the conversation will happen in person (Roffman will appear in the Reading Room), the Library will stream the conversation on Zoom for a live viewing experience. Both in-person and online attendees will be able to pose questions.

Attendance at this event constitutes permission for your photograph or video to be taken at the event and used by the American Library in Paris for marketing, promotional, pedagogical, or other purposes.

Evenings with an Author are free and open to the public (with a 10€ suggested donation)
thanks to the generous support of Gregory Annenberg Weingarten of GRoW @ Annenberg.


Tue 17 October 2023
19 h 30 min - 20 h 30 min
Event Categories:
(Hybrid) John Ashbery: a Life of Poetry
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