West Tisbury: In memory of John Ashbery


I’m writing this week’s column on my porch this Monday morning. The air feels silent, or at least quieter than it has all summer. Planes overhead and traffic noise from the road, it all seems to have quieted down. Frequent rain has kept our woods washed and bright green, so thick overhead that the branches arch like an umbrella or Buckminster Fuller dome over our house, over Mike and me, protective and comforting. Nanuk is by my feet, the spot she has adopted now that Talley is no longer here.

I have written often of my anachronistic devotion to real newspapers. By “real” I mean the paper copy that awaits me at the end of my driveway every morning in its bright blue bag. There are always unexpected things to discover in the real newspaper that one would miss if reading it online. Kind of like looking up a word in the dictionary and finding lots of other interesting definitions along the way.

The front page of today’s New York Times had one of the best obituaries I have ever read, of John Ashbery, one of my favorite poets, who died yesterday. Ashbery was a leading figure in the New York art world of the 1950s and forward, a friend, colleague, and frequent model for many of the painters who have so inspired me: Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, Willem De Kooning, Nell Blaine, Lois Dodd, Joan Mitchell, Jane Wilson. So, too, of the poets of that period: James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara. I would have loved to have lived in the bohemian Greenwich Village I have read so much about, to have painted and talked with artists whom I idolize. As soon as I finish writing, I plan to go out to my studio and reread a book about these artists and poets who collaborated and exhibited together at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in the 1950s and ’60s.

The obituary was written by David Orr and Dinitia Smith, with Maggie Astor contributing. Go up to the library and read it if you have a chance.

At the library this week:

Saturday, Sept. 9, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, a family craft. Supplies will be set out in the Children’s Room. An artist’s reception for painter Billy Hoff will take place in the Program Room from 3 to 5 pm.

Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 am to 3 pm, a free Girl Power and Self-Defense Workshop for ages 12 to 16, led by Melanie Platcow. Learn techniques for goal-setting, self-confidence, and developing a positive attitude, plus yoga and kickboxing. Lunch is provided. Sign-up is required.

Monday, Sept. 11, 11:30 am, Kanta Lipsky’s Balance Workshop. At 7 pm, Writers Read their short pieces of original fiction or nonfiction. Eight minutes is allotted to each reader. Sign-up is required. Listeners are welcome, too.

The Afterschool Learning Lab continues to meet every weekday afternoon from 3 to 4:30 pm.

Our local cartoonist, Paul Karasik, has written a new book with Mark Newgarden, “How to Read Nancy,” published by Fantagraphic Books. It will be released on Nov. 11 at Comic Arts in Brooklyn, N.Y. A timely coup is the book’s foreword, written by Jerry Lewis just before his death. He had eagerly agreed to Paul and Mark’s request, as he was a longtime fan of Nancy and her creator, Ernie Bushmiller.

The First Congregational Church of West Tisbury has given some options for donating to Hurricane Harvey relief. They are: United Church of Christ (note: For Hurricane Harvey Relief on the memo line), 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 49115; and Houston Food Bank, 535 Portwall, Houston, TX 77029.

Sept. 23 is the date that has been set for this year’s Living Local Harvest Festival at the Agricultural Hall. The festival hours are 10 am to 4 pm, to be followed by a community supper and contradancing from 6 to 9 pm.

Many artists on the Island will remember Bill Ternes, a watercolorist, oil painter, teacher, and friend to many here. There will be an opening this Sunday evening, Sept. 10, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown for two artists who have been awarded a prize donated by Bill’s family. The criterion for the award was “an artist whose work most represents the spirit of Bill’s paintings.” The artists chosen are Anna Finnerty and Nancy Walton. Work by both artists will be on display, along with a small selection of Bill Ternes’ paintings. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 9 pm, and Sunday from noon to 5 pm.

School will have reopened by the time you are reading this. College kids have long since left, and West Tisbury School and Charter School students are getting back into their routine of getting up early, eating an early breakfast, catching the bus, and heading off to school. It’s not so bad now, still light in the early mornings. But the summer, with its unstructured days, is clearly over.