I had three poet-teachers at UC Berkeley back in the early 90s: Robert Hass, Lyn Hejinian, and John Ash. David Trinidad in his Notes on a Past Life works through a lot of grief and resentment over his life in New York City. He names names and exposes his feelings: sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes jealous, wounded, hopeful, shy, ambitious, proud. Among the names who get unfriendly mentions are two of my Cal teachers.
From “Lost Illusions”:
“John Ash (who Tim [Dlugos] detests),
… is so plastered
he falls out of his chair
onto the floor, spilling his drink
on himself. Unfazed, he keeps
talking, cigarette hand
waving in my direction.”
From “Susan takes me to the Academy of American Poets”:
“I remember it as a series
of flashes, each more grim
than the last. …
… John Ash. I smile
expecting recognition (we’ve
met on several occasions),
but he just glowers at me.”
John Ash was the visiting Holloway Lecturer in 1993 when I was a student at Cal. Do I remember him drinking? I guess I do. We had a class get-together off campus and I do remember John getting rather sloshed. He was hardly the only drinker I knew. I enjoyed having him as a teacher. I loved his poetry, and, as a young gay man, it was pretty cool having a gay poet as a mentor.
In researching this blog post I discovered that John Ash died in December. Oh! Six months ago. That set me back.
“… when Eileen [Myles] was directing
the Poetry Project, she paired me
with Lyn Hejinian (something
perverse there). That was a tough
My usually crowd-pleasing Supremes
poem was met with stony indifference.”
Lyn Hejinian was the Holloway Lecturer the year before John Ash. I liked her, too! While I wish I had kept some connection with John, I have managed a friendly, if infrequent, acquaintance with Lyn. It helps that Lyn lives in Berkeley — a mere block away from the Berkeley Public Library’s Claremont Branch, where I work. In my experience Lyn is generous and open, even if she does have definite opinions. I find her work sharp and engaging. I would have been thrilled to attend that Poetry Project reading.
What can you say?
source: Notes on a Past Life
by David Trinidad
2016. BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo NY