I have just read "the Last Avant Garde", a bio of the School of NY Poets, by David Lehman. As described by Lehman the core NY Poets were Kenneth Koch [coke], Frank O'Hara, John Ashberry, and James Schuyler. The moniker 'School of New York Poets' was coined by gallery owner John Myers to help popularize his poet friends whom he brought together with the existing 'School of NY Painters'. The poets and painters would hang together at the Cedar Tavern and Myers gallery. There was also a cottage retreat where the friends would meet. For a first person narrative of this dynamic alliance please see Frank O'Hara's "why I am not a painter".
In 1954 John Myers published 'semi-colan' featuring Ken and Frank. Koch had a collection of oneliners called Collected Poems while O'Hara had Collected Poems an Answer which were oneliners with Ken's titles. Also included was an untitled piece they had improvised on a street corner: one stanza repeated 12 times; sky/ woof woof!/ harp . Yeah! I had not heard this before and thought it so brilliant that I did it a reading last week where I also did a tribute to Douglas Adams.
Much of the work of the NY Poets was technical artistry with the use of various templates. Like poems where each line has to include a colour, street, etc. Or a type Lehman calls a list or catalogue poem and made popular by James Schuyler with "Things to do". another type Lehman describes is the 'blague' or spoof poem.
David cites two poems I really enjoyed.
Kenneth Koch from "Passing Time in Skansen"
the only thing I could say in Swedish
was 'Yog talar endast svenska'
which meant I speak only Swedish, whereas I thought it meant
I DONT speak Swedish
So the young ladies, delighted, talked to me very fast
At which I smiled and understood nothing,
Though sometimes I would repeat
Yog talar endast svenska.
The other was a 1962 version of a slam between Frank O'Hara and Robert Lowell at Wagner College in Staten Island. Lehman describing Frank as dissed by Robert's traditional style. So he writes this wonderful piece on the ferry ride.
Lana Turner has collapsed;
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hail hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED?
There is no snow in Hollywood
There is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up.
From "Steps" another poem for Lana by Frank
oh god its wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much.
David Lehman also cites 2nd generation NY Poets Ted Berrigan and an excellent piece by Alice Notley "April not an inventory but a blizzard". An easy read maybe 3-4 hours. These works have been quoted without permission so the reader can enjoy their talent and I hope this is not a problem but I will look into this. Thank you Kristaps
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