John Ashbery's Nest
John Ashbery’s Nest is a website and virtual tour of the American poet’s home. In 1978, when John Ashbery purchased his first and only house in Hudson, New York, he began an intensive project of creating his ideal vision of a home. Although not well known as a collector, he had actually begun to study American antiques in childhood, composing some of his earliest poems about objects he found. From the 1950s to the 1980s, he also amassed hundreds of new, small collections while also writing about them (ceramics, wallpaper, etc.) in art reviews, in essays for popular magazines on eclectic collectors and their homes, and in provocative new poems. Painstakingly restored over a fifteen-year period, his house became a frame for these assemblages, providing a place to display his discoveries and continue to learn from them.
While the Hudson House has always been a private space, this project provides, through a website highlighting Ashbery’s creation of each room (including photographs, biographical details, archival records, and audio clips of Ashbery and his partner, David Kermani, discussing each room), both crucial documentation and an experience of how he has used and imagined the home. Links to related poetic texts demonstrate how deeply objects and houses have resonated in Ashbery’s artistic life.
Using new virtual reality technologies to explore rooms and interact with objects inside the house, Nest enables users to experience the intimacy of being in “the middle of things,” a reality that echoes in Ashbery’s greatest poems.
A collaboration with Karin Roffman, the Yale Digital Humanities Lab, VR Habitat, and Yale ITS, Nest launched in 2017 with a prototype of the Center Hall. The site has since been expanded, with visitors now able to:
- move through 14 rooms and engage with 232 objects
- listen to more than 200 audio interview excerpts featuring John Ashbery, his husband David Kermani, and a dozen other artists and scholars
- read additional archival information on objects and rooms
- explore links to over 100 poems that highlight the relationship between physical objects and poetic imagination.
This project was funded in part by Yale Digital Humanities Lab Project and Software Development Seed Grants