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  1. The New York School of Poets “It’s wonderful to have three good friends you think are geniuses.”—Kenneth Koch

  2. From poetry.org • The New York School of poetry began around 1960 in New York City and included poets such as John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara. Heavily influenced by surrealism and modernism, the poetry of the New York School was serious but also ironic, and incorporated an urban sensibility into much of the work. An excerpt from Ashbery’s poem, "My Philsophy of Life" demonstrates this attitude: • Just when I thought there wasn't room enoughfor another thought in my head, I had this great idea--call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,it involved living the way philosophers live,according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones? • Abstract expressionist art was also a major influence, and the New York School poets had strong artistic and personal relationships with artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning. Both O'Hara and James Schuyler worked at the Museum of Modern Art, and Guest, Ashbery, and Schuyler were critics for Art News. O'Hara also took inspiration from artists, entitling two poems "Joseph Cornell" and "On Seeing Larry Rivers.” The New York School of Poets

  3. From poetry.org O'Hara's poem "Why I am Not a Painter" includes the lines "I am not a painter, I am a poet. / Why? I think I would rather be / a painter, but I am not.” A second generation of New York School poets arose during the 1960s and included Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, and Joe Brainard. These poets were also influenced by art and their work contained much of the same humour and collaborative spirit. Their scene grew up around downtown New York and was associated with the Poetry Project at St Mark's Church, a poetry organization started in the mid 1960s. The New York School continues to influence poets writing today. Recently published books such as Daniel Kane's All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s and David LehmanThe Last-Avant Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets are important histories of this poetic movement that still captures readers nearly fifty years later. The New York School of Poets

  4. “In an age of split-level conformism, the poets of the New York School put their trust in the idea of an artistic vanguard that would sanction their devotions from the norm. The liberating effect of their writing became increasingly evident in the passionate, experimental, taboo-breaking early 1960s, when the nation’s youngest president was in office, men discarded their hats, women started using the Pill, the acceleration in the speed of social change seemed to double overnight, and America finally left the nineteenth century behind” (Lehman 1). The New York School of Poets

  5. “Substitute Frank O’Hara for Apollinaire and Abstract Expressionism for Cubism, and you get an eerie fit. The poets of the New York School were as heterodox, and belligerent toward the literary establishment and as loyal to each other, as their predecessors had been. The 1950 and early ’60s in New York were their banquet years.”—David Lehman (2) Guillaume Apollonaire The New York School of Poets


  6. “Witnesses to what Robert Motherwell called the ‘the greatest painting adventure of our time,’ [the New York School of Poets] strove for the same excitement in poetry, looking to painters as the agents for artistic change.”—David Lehman (2) The New York School of Poets

  7. “New York poets, except I suppose the color-blind, are effected most by the floods of paint in whose crashing surf we all scramble. . . . In New York, the art world is a painters’ world; writers and musicians are in the boat but they don’t steer.”—James Schuyler (Lehman 2). The New York School of Poets

  8. Jackson Pollack, “Number 1” The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  9. Jackson Pollack, “Number 8” (detail) The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  10. Jackson Pollack, “Convergence: 10” The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  11. Robert Motherwell, Razor’s Edge The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  12. Robert Motherwell, Untitled The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  13. DeKooning, Whose Name was Writ in Water The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  14. Willem DeKooning, Fire Island The New York School of Poets Abstract Expressionism

  15. “From Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, they learned that it was okay for a poem to chronicle the history of its own making—that the mind of the poet, rather than the world, could be the true subject of the poem and that it was possible for a poem to be (or to perform) a statement without making a statement” (Lehman 3). The New York School of Poets

  16. “Like painting, writing was properly understood to be an activity, a present-tense process, and the residue of that activity could not help referring to itself. All poetry was a product of a collaboration with language. While mimesis, the imitation of nature, remained a goal of art, the abstract painters had redefined the concept by enlarging the meaning of nature: ‘I am nature,’ Jackson Pollock said. This, too, was a liberty the poets could take.” The New York School of Poets

  17. It came to me that all this time • There had been no real poetry and that it needed to be invented. • --Kenneth Koch, “Days and Nights” • “[The New York School] understood too that a poem no less than a painting could be ‘a hoard of destructions,’ in Picasso’s phrase” (Lehman 6) • “[M]odern poetry gave the poet the license to be strange.” • --John Ashbery The New York School of Poets

  18. “Unlike the Beats, however, the poets of the New York School pursued an aesthetic agenda that was deliberately apolitical, even antipolitical” (Lehman 9). The New York School of Poets

  19. “For a long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everyone accepts. In the history of the refused in the arts and literature the rapidity of the change is always startling.”—Gertrude Stein, “Composition as Explanation” (1926) (Lehman 11) Leopards break into the temple and drink the sacrificial chalices dry. This happens again and again, repeatedly. Finally it can be counted on beforehand and becomes part of the ceremony. --Franz Kafka, Parables The New York School of Poets

  20. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto Frank O'Hara Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor wealthy man's Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that can't be got at one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come on. I don't believe in god, so I don't have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate Vachel Lindsay, always have; I don't even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, "Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” The New York School of Poets

  21. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto That's for the writing poems part. As for their reception, suppose you're in love and somebody's mistreating (mal aimé) you, you don't say, "Hey, you can't hurt me this way, I care!" you just let all the different bodies fall where they may, and they always do after a few months. But that's not why you fell in love in the first place, just to hang onto life, so you have to take your chances and try to avoid being logical. Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you. I'm not saying that I don't have practically the most lofty ideas of anyone writing today, but what difference does that make? They're just ideas. The only good thing about it is that when I get lofty enough I've stopped thinking and that's when refreshment arrives. The New York School of Poets

  22. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto But how then can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don't give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies. As for measure and other technical apparatus, that's just common sense: if you're going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There's nothing metaphysical about it. Unless, of course, you flatter yourself into thinking that what you're experiencing is "yearning.” The New York School of Poets

  23. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto Abstraction in poetry, which Allen [Ginsberg] recently commented on in It Is, is intriguing. I think it appears mostly in the minute particulars where decision is necessary. Abstraction (in poetry, not painting) involves personal removal by the poet. For instance, the decision involved in the choice between "the nostalgia of the infinite" and "the nostalgia for the infinite" defines an attitude towards degree of abstraction. The nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degree of abstraction, removal, and negative capability (as in Keats and Mallarmé). The New York School of Poets

  24. O’Hara The New York School of Poets Personism: A Manifesto Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about, interests me a great deal, being so totally opposed to this kind of abstract removal that it is verging on a true abstraction for the first time, really, in the history of poetry. Personism is to Wallace Stevens what la poési pure was to Béranger. Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, it's all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love's life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet's feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. That's part of Personism. It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a

  25. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It's a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. While I have certain regrets, I am still glad I got there before Alain Robbe-Grillet did. Poetry being quicker and surer than prose, it is only just that poetry finish literature off. For a time people thought that Artaud was going to accomplish this, but actually, for all their magnificence, his polemical writings are not more outside literature than Bear Mountain is outside New York State. His relation is no more astounding than Dubuffet's to painting. The New York School of Poets

  26. O’Hara Personism: A Manifesto What can we expect from Personism? (This is getting good, isn't it?) Everything, but we won't get it. It is too new, too vital a movement to promise anything. But it, like Africa, is on the way. The recent propagandists for technique on the one hand, and for content on the other, had better watch out. September 3, 1959 The New York School of Poets

  27. John Ashbery (1927-) The New York School of Poets

  28. Ashbery From a post on poets.org I'm not an Ashbery fan and don't like his influence on contemporary poetry. LIke Derrida, he's pompous and repetitious. No music, no humanity. Logorrehea of flowing, endless, discursive prose, chopped up into lines. I take this poem to be about the indeterminancy of art and an aping of that indeterminancy. If you pick up a thousand-year-old Chinese poem, often the humanity comes through as if it were written yesterday. Can you imagine another society picking this up a few hundred years from now? They're going to have a good laugh on us. The New York School of Poets

  29. Ashbery From “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” Perhaps an angel looks like everythingWe have forgotten, I mean forgottenThings that don't seem familiar whenWe meet them again, lost beyond telling,Which were ours once. The New York School of Poets

  30. Ashbery Meaningful Love What the bad news was became apparent too late for us to do anything good about it. I was offered no urgent dreaming, didn't need a name or anything. Everything was taken care of. In the medium-size city of my awareness voles are building colossi. The blue room is over there. He put out no feelers. The day was all as one to him. Some days he never leaves his room and those are the best days, by far. The New York School of Poets

  31. Ashbery Meaningful Love There were morose gardens farther down the slope, anthills that looked like they belonged there. The sausages were undercooked, the wine too cold, the bread molten. Who said to bring sweaters? The climate's not that dependable. The Atlantic crawled slowly to the left pinning a message on the unbound golden hair of sleeping maidens, a ruse for next time, where fire and water are rampant in the streets, the gate closed—no visitors today or any evident heartbeat. The New York School of Poets

  32. Ashbery Meaningful Love I got rid of the book of fairy tales, pawned my old car, bought a ticket to the funhouse, found myself back here at six o'clock, pondering "possible side effects.” There was no harm in loving then, no certain good either. But love was loving servants or bosses. No straight road issuing from it. Leaves around the door are penciled losses. Twenty years to fix it. Asters bloom one way or another. The New York School of Poets

  33. James Schuyler (1923-1991) The New York School of Poets

  34. Schuyler Korean Mums Beside me in this gardenare huge and daisy-like(why not? are notoxeye daisies a chrysanthemum?),shrubby and thick-stalked,the leaves pointing upthe stems from whichthe flowers burst insunbursts. I lovethis garden in all its moods,even under its winter coatof salt hay, or now,in October, more thanhalf gone over: here The New York School of Poets

  35. Schuyler Korean Mumsa rose, there a clumpof aconite. This morningone of the dogs killeda barn owl. Bob sawit happen, tried tointervene. The airedalesnapped its neck and leftit lying. Now the birdlies buried by an appletree. Last eveningfrom the table we sawthe owl, huge in the dusk,circling the fieldon owl-silent wings. The New York School of Poets

  36. Schuyler Korean Mums The first one ever seenhere: now it's gone,a dream you just remember.The dogs are barking. Inthe studio music playsand Bob and Darragh paint.I sit scribbling in a littlenotebook at a garden table,too hot in a heavy shirtin the mid-October suninto which the Korean mumsall face. There is a dull book with me,an apple core, cigarettes, The New York School of Poets

  37. Schuyler Korean Mumsan ashtray. Behind methe rue I gave Bobflourishes. Light on leaves,so much to see, andall I really see is thatowl, its bulk troublingthe twilight. I'llsoon forget it: whatis there I have not forgot?Or one day will forget:this garden, the breezein stillness, eventhe words, Korean mums. The New York School of Poets

  38. Schuyler Faure's Second Piano Quartet On a day like this the rain comesdown in fat and random drops amongthe ailanthus leaves---"the treeof Heaven"---the leaves that on moon-lit nights shimmer black and blade-shaped at this third-floor window.And there are bunches of small greenknobs, buds, crowded together. Therapid music fills in the spaces ofthe leaves. And the piano comes in,like an extra heartbeat, dangerousand lovely. Slower now, less likethe leaves, more like the rain which The New York School of Poets

  39. Schuyler Faure's Second Piano Quartetalmost isn't rain, more like thawed-out hail. All this beauty in themess of this small apartment onWest 20th in Chelsea, New York.Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,more slowly still, fat rain falls. The New York School of Poets

  40. Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) The New York School of Poets

  41. Frank O’Hara on Mad Men The New York School of Poets “For Those Who Think Young,” 8:46 & 47:00

  42. Frank O’Hara on Mad Men The New York School of Poets

  43. O’Hara Excerpt from Mayakovsky. "Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern. The country is grey and brown and white in trees, snows and skies of laughter always diminishing, less funny not just darker, not just grey. It may be the coldest day of the year, what does he think of that? I mean, what do I? And if I do, perhaps I am myself again." The New York School of Poets

  44. O’Hara On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art Now that our hero has come back to us in his white pants and we know his nose trembling like a flag under fire, we see the calm cold river is supporting our forces, the beautiful history. To be more revolutionary than a nun is our desire, to be secular and intimate as, when sighting a redcoat, you smile and pull the trigger. Anxieties and animosities, flaming and feeding The New York School of Poets

  45. O’Hara On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art on theoretical considerations and the jealous spiritualities of the abstract the robot? they're smoke, billows above the physical event. They have burned up. See how free we are! as a nation of persons. Dear father of our country, so alive you must have lied incessantly to be immediate, here are your bones crossed on my breast like a rusty flintlock, a pirate's flag, bravely specific The New York School of Poets

  46. O’Hara On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art and ever so light in the misty glare of a crossing by water in winter to a shore other than that the bridge reaches for. Don't shoot until, the white of freedom glinting on your gun barrel, you see the general fear. The New York School of Poets

  47. O’Hara The New York School of Poets

  48. O’Hara The New York School of Poets To the Film Industry in Crisis Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants, nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you, promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry, it's you I love! In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love. And give credit where it's due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment, not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you, glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope, stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To Richard Barthelmess as the "tol'able" boy barefoot and in pants,

  49. O’Hara To the Film Industry in Crisis Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck, Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet, Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain-climbers' gasping spouses, the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled, her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon, its crushing passions, and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer, Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea's yacht, and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx, The New York School of Poets

  50. O’Hara To the Film Industry in Crisis Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates, Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls, Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining, and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines, my love! Long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, delays and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on! The New York School of Poets