Interviewed by: Suzan Sherman and Daniel Wentworth
Shot and edited by: Melissa Friedling/Slouch Productions

The Artist’s Life: John Yau

As a child growing up outside Boston, John Yau read insatiably, but instead of children’s books he preferred biographies and travelogues. He began writing poems at 13 and has since published more than a dozen books of poetry and collaborations with artists. In his twenties, he began writing about visual art as a way, he explained, to pay closer attention to the outside world. Now the Arts Editor of the Brooklyn Rail, Yau is also the author of the A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper JohnsIn the Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol; and The Passionate Spectator: Essays on Art and Poetry. Yau is a rare breed in many ways, particularly in his ability to bridge the visual and literary arts; over the years he has found that his poetry and criticism have bled into each other, creating a hybrid form all its own.

Yau graciously invited us into his sprawling apartment in the Garment District, packed with books and original artworks by the likes of Philip Guston, Thomas Nozkowski, and Deborah Butterfield. His daughter, Cerise, happened to be off from school that day, and along with Charlie, their wire-haired dachshund, lounged on the sofa beside Yau. In the process, daughter and dog became a part of the interview and video shoot. Refreshingly down to earth, Yau described for us a typical day, which entails an intricate juggling act of balancing writing, editing, and teaching with his being a husband and father.

John Yau is the author of books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. He has been the recipient of awards and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation;Creative Capital-Warhol FoundationNational Endowment for the Arts; and the New York Foundation of the Arts. Since 2006, he has been an Arts Editor of the Brooklyn Rail, and has published over one hundred reviews and essays there. He has taught at Emerson College, Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts (Bard College), the Maryland Institute College of Art, University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches in the Visual Arts Department of Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University). His next book of poems, My Latest Adventures in Monochrome, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in the spring of 2012.

Amy Aronoff
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