John Ashbery acknowledges NBCC helped jumpstart his career

by David Varno | Sep-12-2009

“It’s great to be back here;” John Ashbery said, once the overwhelming applause settled.  It its a special treat to hear Ashbery speak. “Actually,” he said, “it’s great to be anywhere.”

He noted that the NBCC’s award inevitably means more to a writer than one chosen by a handful of judges, and acknowledged that it served to “jumpstart my somewhat sagging career as a poet.” 

Soon after he won the award for Self-Portrait for a Convex Mirror, the book won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer.  “I’m so incredulous that this happened,” he said.  He shared an anecdote of meeting Susan Sontag in Poland, where she congratulated him on his “triple crown,” before joking that measures would be taken to assure that no one would win the three awards for the same book again. 

Having not been there the first time around, I would say that hearing the greatest poet of the past half-decade give tribute to an event that sent him on to give him the recognition he deserved is about as stirring as it gets.

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