[Frank] O’Hara’s ironically self-deprecating tone was much imitated. “I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love,” he wrote. He kiddingly called his own poems “the by-product of exhibitionism” and wrote constantly about his daily life. It was O’Hara who initiated the policy of dropping names in his poems, a habit that became a New York School trademark. O’Hara peppered his work with references to his painter friends — [Jane] Freilicher, [Larry] Rivers, Mike Goldberg, Joan Mitchell, Norman Bluhm, Grace Hartigan, Al Leslie — with perfect indifference to whether readers would recognize their names. That indifference argued a certain confidence in the poet’s ability to make the details of his autobiography-in-progress so irresistible that the reader feels flattered to be regarded as the poet’s intimate. O’Hara s celebration of friendship in poetry represented an ideal that second-generation New York School poets, such as Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Ron Padgett, and Anne Waldman, emulated in the 1960s. Everyone wanted to be, as [Ted] Berrigan put it, “perfectly frank.” James Schuyler has a marvelous rift in a letter to Berkson urging him to “be frank (if you can’t be frank, be john and kenneth). Say,” Schuyler continues, “maybe our friends’ names would make good verbs: to kenneth: emit a loud red noise; to ashbery- cast a sidewise salacious glance while holding a champagne glass by the stem; to kenward: glide from the room and not make waves; to brainard, give a broad and silent chuckle; to maehiz, shower with conversational spit drops–but I said friends, didn’t I–cancel the last. To berkson and to schuyler I leave to you.”
Source: Lehman, David. The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets. New York: Doubleday, 1998, print, p. 73.
“genius is the ignition of affection — not intellect, as is supposed, — the exaltation of devotion, and in proportion to our capacity for that, is our experience of genius.¨
Dickinson, in a letter to Louise and Frances Norcross, early spring 1881
“When you are walking down a city street and not paying much attention—perhaps you are downtrodden by some confusion—and come suddenly upon a rose bush blooming against a brick wall, you may be struck and awakened by the appearance of beauty. But the rose is not beautiful. You think the rose is beautiful and so you may also think, with sadness, that it will die. But the rose is not beauty. What beauty is is your ability to apprehend it. The ability to apprehend beauty is the human spirit and it is what all such moments are about, which is why such moments occur in places and at times that may strike another as unlikely or inconceivable, and it does not seem far-fetched to say that the larger the human spirit, the more it will apprehend beauty in increasingly unlikely and inconceivable situations, which is why there is such a great variety of art objects on earth. And there is something else we should say about the apprehension of beauty: it causes discomfort; and by discomfort I mean the state of being riled, which is a state of reverberation.
“What you carried inside you when you walked through the door was this ability. It is your ability to apprehend beauty, or the lack of it. It is your ability to listen. And change, or be changed. It has something to do with the secret of human existence, which is nowhere revealed, and nowhere concealed, and in front of which we remain, or become, infants.”
- Ruefle, Mary. Madness, Rack and Honey: Collected Lectures. Seattle: Wave Books, 2012. Print. pp. 98-99.
“You are poets, I assume you think metaphorically. Isn’t that the way you read? True or false: the subject or topic of a poem is never really its subject or topic. Robert Frost never wrote a nature poem. He said that. Meaning: there’s more to me than trees and birds. Meaning: there’s more to trees and birds and I know that, so that means there’s more to me, too.”
- Ruefle, Mary. Madness, Rack and Honey: Collected Lectures. Seattle: Wave Books, 2012. Print. p. 55.
“The background of tradition of profound conviction that men and women and children do not change, that science is interesting but does not change anything, that democracy is real but that governments unless they tax you too much or get you defeated by the enemy are of no importance.”
Gertrude Stein in Paris France