The global pop brand MTV have appointed, I can hardly believe this, a poet laureate for their student channel , mtvU. And it's John Ashbery. How this came about I can only imagine. It's perfect, of course. At its best, MTV borders on the avant-garde with its surreal animated indents and its zeitgeisty programming, and Ashbery once wrote a pastoral sestina based around characters from Popeye. What seems difficult to comprehend is that, right at the heart of a culture increasingly in thrall to the rapidly assimilated and easy to swallow, a place has been found for one of the most academic and inscrutable living poets, in some ways the US version of Geoffrey Hill.
'He's among the most beloved and celebrated poets of our time. Now he's the poet laureate on mtvU,' boasts the homepage of the website. Will this mean anything to anyone? Are they suggesting that Ashbery has reached the pinnacle of his career, that being poet-in-residence on MTV is tantamount to winning the Nobel prize for literature? I can't help but disagree. It's far more exciting than that.