Poet John Ashbery died this past Sunday, stilling a genius voice whose insight and humor truly broke through to the other side. My husband introduced me to him in the 1970s. We read Houseboat Days aloud and laughed together at “The Serious Doll.” We were delighted when Ashbery accepted our invitation to come and give the world’s first Live Online poetry reading at our Online BookStore (OBS) on 15 March 1993. At the time the Online BookStore was hosted by World.Std.Com, the world’s first ISP in Brookline, Massachusetts. In our groundbreaking live online reading, Ashbery read his poems “Flow Chart,” “Hotel Lautreamont,” “Landscape,” “At North Farm,” and “How to Continue.” (Not to fear, this important event in internet history hasn’t been lost to the decades: we are having this cassette tape transcribed and expect to post sound files soon. Watch this space!) Ashbery was delighted at the prospect of freeing poetry from its page, reinventing the oral tradition with internet technology. We at OBS are honored to have played this small role in enabling his voice to reach the world, and we mourn his loss.
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