I know it has been awfully quiet around here at Locus Solus over the past few months. A combination of pandemic craziness and being in the last stages of a long-term project has resulted in my needing to take a bit of a hiatus (or, as journalists like to call it, “book leave”) from posting about the New York School of poets here. (I continue to post regularly on the Locus Solus Facebook page and on Twitter so I do encourage you to follow me in those places for New York School-related content).
I hope to resume more frequent posting here in the near future, but in the meantime, I thought I’d do one of my semi-regular roundups of recent links and news related to the New York School of poets. (Previous roundups can be found here). So here are some of the many items of interest from the past few months:
- Sebastian Smee writes about Grace Hartigan and Frank O’Hara in the Washington Post. The piece focuses on the friendship between Hartigan and O’Hara (which I wrote a bit about here), and in particular, focuses on Hartigan’s painting “Frank O’Hara, 1926-1966,” which she painted after the poet’s tragic death. Smee notes that the painting “is definitely an event. Measuring 6.6-by-6.6 feet, it is full of compressed energies, rhyming forms and an overall sense of energetic entanglement.”
- Karin Roffman, the author of The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life, recently created and annotated a delightful playlist of some of Ashbery’s favorite pieces of music for Evergreen Review, from John Cage’s “Music of Changes” to Schoenberg’s “String Quartet No. 3” to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”
- Exciting news for fans of Alice Notley — her first art book, Runes and Chords, is forthcoming this summer: “These sketches, drawn on an iPad and first serialized on Notley’s Twitter feed, are a fascinating window into an evolving practice, collages of flowers and poetry, the white space of digital creation and overlaid colors erupting from the page. They defy containment and category, much like their creator—each a second in a day, an afternoon or evening in Paris, a thought so transient it can only exist in the medium of social media.” Notley wrote about the origins the book and the process of making these works for the Poetry Foundation, and Nick Sturm delved into Notley’s visual art for Jacket2.
- The world of the New York School and its affiliates has suffered some sharp losses over the past few months. First, Lewis Warsh, a beloved and important member of the New York School’s so-called Second Generation, recently passed away at the age of 76. For some of the many fine and moving tributes that have appeared since he passed away late last year, see here and here and here.
- The poet Dick Gallup, an important member of “the soi-disant Tulsa School” and close friend of Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, and Ron Padgett, passed away in January 2021. Nick Sturm wrote this wonderful tribute to Gallup’s life and poetry for The Brooklyn Rail.
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat poet, champion of free speech and artistic freedom, founder of City Lights Books, and editor who worked closely with Frank O’Hara on the publication of Lunch Poems, passed away at the age of 101. Here is the New York Times obituary of this iconic figure of the postwar avant-garde and the New American Poetry: “Lawerence Ferlinghetti, Poet Who Nurtured the Beats, Dies at 101.”
- An additional major loss was the death of Diane Di Prima, another figure associated with the Beats but with strong ties to O’Hara and poets of the New York School. Di Prima died in October 2020 at the age of 86 — you can find some of the many obituaries and tributes here, here, here, and here. Last year, a critical study of Di Prima’s work, Diane Di Prima: Visionary Poetics and Hidden Religions, by David Stephen Calonne was published as well.
- Poet and critic Ange Mlinko recently reviewed the Collected Poems of Harry Mathews for London Review of Books.
- Mary Maxwell also wrote about Mathews’s Collected poems for the Best American Poetry blog: “Taking Parisian boulevards as a starting point, perhaps the best way to present his poetic work is as a sort of extended flirtation taking place at an outdoor cafe, formal stricture functioning as mere frame, the way extenuating circumstances of vehicular traffic and passersby impinge upon conversation. His lines often throb with the intensity of being abroad…experiences lit by unfamiliar skies and therefore glowing with an enchanted alienness.”
- Christine Smallwood reviewed the new biography of Helen Frankenthaler for Harper’s.
- The scholar Brian Glavey has a new critical essay on James Schuyler in New Literary History (paywalled) called “Lyric Wilt, or, the Here and Now of Queer Impotentiality.” In the essay, Glavey considers “the tension between Schuyler’s commitment to the here and now and what [Jose] Muñoz calls ‘the there and then of queer futurity,’ suggesting that the key to understanding these seemingly contradictory commitments is to recognize his career-long investigation into the idea of potentiality.”
- Art historian Delia Solomons writes for MoMA about a sculpture by the artist Marisol (who I wrote about here) in relation to a poem by Frank O’Hara. Solomons “brings together Marisol’s sculpture Love and Frank O’Hara’s poem “Having a Coke with You” to explore their shared investigations of the personal in a capitalistic landscape, queer eroticism, global Cold War politics, and stoppered versus flowing communication.”
- The poet and physician Rafael Campo writes about Frank O’Hara’s “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)” in the context of our pandemic moment for the Poetry Society of America. “Whenever I return to this beloved poem,” Campo writes, “as I have frequently during these fevered days, or teach it to medical students, I’m always struck by its immediacy, how insistently it locates us in the troubled physical body … Whether we hear a prayer of hope in the poem’s stunning last line, or a desperate plea that we endure, or even an arch impatience in our silly imperfections, in the end we can confess our inexplicable, undiagnosable, love—and, more than by any medicine I can prescribe, be saved by it.”
- The poet Shane McCrae published a piece titled “My War with John Ashbery” for the Library of America’s series of blog posts on “Infuences.” McCrae notes “I’m still afraid when I sit down to read him—I struggled to not sound like Ashbery for years; I still feel as if he might overwhelm me. And in the end, I only managed the trick of not sounding like him by trying a new trick. The trick, it turns out, wasn’t to not sound like Ashbery—if that had been what I kept trying to do, I never would have pulled the trick off—the trick was to sound like myself.”
- Tim Keane takes stock of Barbara Guest’s poetry in a piece for Hyperallergic, arguing that Guest “stands apart as a radical traditionalist, committed to poetry’s clairvoyant, mythical potentials.”
- For the Nation, Jeremy Lybarger reviewed a very welcome new edition of the letters of the poet John Wieners (edited by Michael Seth Stewart) whose work and friendship Frank O’Hara valued so highly (see “Les Luths,” where O’Hara writes “everybody here is running around after dull pleasantries and / wondering if The Hotel Wentley Poems is as great as I say it is” and my post from a few years ago about their relationship).
- Some Other Blues: New Perspectives on Amiri Baraka, a new collection of essays on Baraka’s work edited by Jean-Philippe Marcoux, was recently published by Ohio State University Press. The book features essays by many important Baraka scholars, including William J. Harris, Benjamin Lee, John Lowney, Fred Moten, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Anthony Reed, Lauri Scheyer, Kathy Lou Schultz, James Smethurst, Laura Vrana, and Tyrone Williams.
- Rosanna Warren’s new biography of the French avant-garde poet Max Jacob, a major influence on the poets of the New York School, was reviewed in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, and excerpted in the Paris Review.