Happy 40th Birthday to Midwinter Day (by Bernadette Mayer)

“I had an idea to write a book that would
… prove the day like the dream has everything in it.”
— Bernadette Mayer, Midwinter Day

Today marks the 40th anniversary of an important moment in twentieth-century poetry — the day the poet Bernadette Mayer wrote her groundbreaking long poem, Midwinter Day.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, there will be marathon readings of the book held in cities around the U.S. and across the world, from Akron, Ohio to Washington, DC to Glasgow and Malmo, Sweden.  (Mayer herself will take part in the Albany, NY reading!).  You can find out more about these events (which have been organized by Becca Klaver) here.

To help mark this important milestone, I’m posting an extended excerpt about Mayer’s Midwinter Day from my recent book Attention Equals Life: The Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture (sans footnotes)The following is one section of a longer chapter entitled “Writing the Maternal Everyday: Bernadette Mayer and Her ‘Daughters,'” which discusses Mayer’s work in detail and its influence on younger contemporary women poets, including Rachel Zucker, Hoa Nguyen, Claudia Rankine, and Laynie Browne.


On December 22, 1978, the young American poet Bernadette Mayer undertook an unusual experiment that she had been planning for weeks.  She wrote an entire book-length poem during and about the events and thoughts she experienced on that particular day.  She later described the resulting poem, which she titled Midwinter Day, as “a 120-page work in prose and poetry written on December 22, 1978, from notes, tapes, photographs, and memory.” The poem recounts an ordinary day in the life of a young woman, her husband, and two young children in the small town of Lenox, Massachusetts, where Mayer and the poet Lewis Warsh, had recently moved from New York City. As Alice Notley has noted, Midwinter Day is an “epic poem about a daily routine.”

Although it was not well-known at the time, Midwinter Day has increasingly come to be seen as a major long poem of the past several decades. While still hardly a household name, Mayer has lately become a beacon for younger American women writers who are still trying to negotiate what is often referred to as “the juggle”–the irresolvable balancing act of work and family that contemporary women endlessly struggle with. Many young poets today feel that Mayer managed to find a way to reconcile these competing roles successfully, long before the “mommy wars” of our day.  Her books of the 1970s exuberantly demonstrate that one can be a poet and a mother at the same time and still survive, and even thrive.

In recent years, Mayer’s work has received a smattering of good critical attention, but her poetry’s outsized influence on more recent writing has still not received the attention it deserves. Critics have often focused on Mayer’s complicated connections, especially as a woman poet, to the two different, often competing movements with which she is associated, the New York School and Language poetry. They have also discussed her relationship to conceptual art, her feminist revision of poetic forms (such as the long poem and the sonnet), and her complex handling of gender and sexuality.

Despite this recent surge of interest in Mayer’s work and her example, there has been little attention paid to her role as an important poet of the everyday, nor to the significance of her quotidian aesthetic for contemporary poets who follow in her wake. By referring to an everyday-life aesthetic, I mean the broad turn away from the extraordinary, the exotic, or the heroic towards the mundane, the small, and the ordinary that has often been hailed as a central feature of twentieth-century literature and art: a literary and artistic lineage that stretches from James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Carlos Williams to the “New American Poetry” of the postwar period, especially to Frank O’Hara and the New York School, a movement known for its loving attention to the daily.

In this chapter, I argue that Mayer should be viewed as an important and under-recognized contributor to this tradition. But I make the case that Mayer not only draws upon the resources of this lineage, but also offers a powerful retort, a bracing corrective to its failures and limitations. To do so, Mayer develops a groundbreaking, influential mode that I call “the poetics of the maternal everyday.” I use this phrase to refer to a feminist aesthetic that explores how daily experience is inescapably shaped by gender, that strives to represent the lived realities of being a woman and a mother, and insists on the fact that motherhood is always, at some level, political.  In short, Mayer’s work offers a stiff challenge to the supposed universality that has long cloaked the implicit male-ness at the heart of many models of dailiness.

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Posted in Bernadette Mayer, Charles Olson, Claudia Rankine, Ezra Pound, Frank O'Hara, James Joyce, Lewis Warsh, NY School Influence, William Carlos Williams | 2 Comments

“Bluets”: James Schuyler, Carl Phillips, Joan Mitchell, Maggie Nelson, and Lydia Davis

Carl Phillips   Image result for "james schuyler"

What a treat to find the great contemporary poet Carl Phillips reflecting on a poem by James Schuyler.  As part of a series he’s doing for Poets House on “poems that approach nature,” Phillips has just published an incisive short piece on Schuyler’s beautiful poem “The Bluet.”

Phillips argues that “‘The Bluet’ offers a kind of secular Transcendentalism, in which the speaker is cheered up in a gloomy season (“dour October”) by a flower whose unseasonable appearance suggests a stamina that the speaker (by implication) seems to have despaired of finding for himself.”  He also offers a persuasive close reading of the poem (“Structurally, I note four movements to this poem, marked primarily by figurative language”).  In the end, Phillips says,

the poem reads as a thanksgiving of sorts, for friendship itself, for human company.

Far from estrangement, Schuyler shows how our engagement with the natural world—precisely because of the anthropomorphizing aspect of that engagement—can remind us that a defining part of being human is to be social. October may be dour, we may lack for stamina, yes. But we’re not alone.

This moving conclusion feels just right to me.  Another thing I love about Schuyler’s poem is that “The Bluet” exists in a web of such rich, interesting connections, including to the painter Joan Mitchell and the writer Maggie Nelson.

Mitchell, who was close with Schuyler and the other New York School poets, painted a large work called “Les Bluets” (1973):

Schuyler reflected on Mitchell’s painting, and its links to his own poem “The Bluet,” in a prose poem called “Footnote”:

“The bluet is a small flower, creamy-throated, that grows in patches in New England lawns. The bluet (French pronunciation) is the shaggy cornflower, growing wild in France. ‘The Bluet’ is a poem I wrote. The Bluet is a painting of Joan Mitchell’s. The thick blue runs and holds. All of them, broken-up pieces of sky, hard sky, soft sky. Today I’ll take Joan’s giant vision, running and holding, staring you down with beauty. Though I need reject none. Bluet. ‘Bloo-ay.'”

Later, in her critical book about the New York School, Maggie Nelson noted that Schuyler and Mitchell shared a “joint interest in bluets” and writes about both the painting and Schuyler’s “Footnote.”  Later still, Nelson wrote her own remarkable, beloved meditation on the color blue and gave it the title Bluets.  In that book, Nelson writes that Mitchell’s “Les Bluets” is “arguably my favorite painting of all time.”

To add to the bounty, another favorite writer of mine, Lydia Davis, wrote a lovely piece about her fascination with Mitchell’s painting “Les Bluets”: “I start with the fact that Les Bluets (The cornflowers) is the painting I think of first when I think of one that has had particular significance in my life. Then I have to figure out why.”

All these interconnections remind me of what Phillips refers to as “a thanksgiving of sorts for friendship, for human company” — across different texts, media, and disparate lives.  As Schuyler marvels in his poem “February,” “I can’t get over / how it all works in together.”

Posted in Carl Phillips, James Schuyler, Joan Mitchell, Maggie Nelson | Leave a comment

“Works from the Collection of John Ashbery,” at Kasmin Gallery in NY

Jane Freilicher John Ashbery painting

Jane Freilicher, John, 1965, oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 18 inches, 51.4 x 45.7 cm. © 2018 Estate of John Ashbery.

An exhibition of artworks from the collection of the late John Ashbery opens tomorrow (11/1) at the Kasmin Gallery in New York.  Over the course of his long life, Ashbery collected works by a wide range of artists, many of whom were his close friends and collaborators, including Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, and Joe Brainard. Many of the works on display have never been exhibited before.

The exhibition “reflects the deep-rooted artistic and personal associations amongst a group of artists and poets who, between them, defined New York’s downtown scene for almost two decades from the 1950s onwards.  As the gallery notes in its press release, “it was Ashbery’s wish that upon his death his collection of art be sold with the proceeds supporting experimental artists in various fields.”

More from the Kasmin Gallery:

Acquired by Ashbery over the course of his life, the majority of the works in the poet’s collection were gifts from his artist friends, many of whom he wrote about in his capacity as an art critic. Having relinquished an early ambition to pursue painting, Ashbery went on to cover exhibitions journalistically for over twenty-five years, reshaping art criticism with roles at ARTnews, Newsweek, Herald Tribune, and New York Magazine allowing him the freedom to write about artists that he thought were overlooked or not easily categorized. Ashbery departed for Paris on a Fulbright in 1955 and lived there for a decade—it was in the city that he came to know artists such as James Bishop and Jean Hélion, both of whom have works included in the exhibition. There his editorial stretch continued at Art and Literature, published by painters Rodrigo Moynihan and his wife painter Anne Dunn (also included in the exhibition) producing a journal that blended coverage of avant-garde art, theater, film, performance, and installation art from around the globe.

Ashbery’s collection reveals the composite of styles that were burgeoning contemporaneously during what is now perceived to be one of the century’s most radically productive artistic periods. As the spontaneous creativity of Abstract Expressionism took flight, Alex Katz’s distinctive painterly realism, the traditional portraiture and still life of Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher, and the illustrative flair of fellow poet Joe Brainard’s book covers, proposed different ways of looking at the world…Artists represented in the exhibition include James Bishop, Joe Brainard, Rudy Burckhardt, Anne Dunn, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Jean Hélion, Alex Katz, R.B. Kitaj, Rodrigo Moynihan, Philip Pearlstein, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, Anne Ryan, Neil Welliver, and Trevor Winkfield.

There will be an opening on Thursday, November 1, from 6-8, and the show will run from November 1 through December 22.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that there is another exhibition currently showing in New York devoted to Ashbery’s own collages: “John Ashbery: the Construction of Fiction” at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery (through November 14).

Joe Brainard, Garden IV, 1969, watercolor on paper and collage, 14 x 11 inches, 35.6 x 27.9 cm. © 2018 Estate of John Ashbery.



Posted in Abstract Expressionism, Alex Katz, Art Exhibit, Fairfield Porter, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Joe Brainard, John Ashbery, Larry Rivers, Rudy Burkhardt, Visual Art | Leave a comment

Jennifer Lawrence and Frank O’Hara: From Hunger Games to Lunch Poems

I’m always on the lookout for surprising Frank O’Hara sightings, but I definitely didn’t see this one coming.  The Daily Mail is reporting today that when the movie star Jennifer Lawrence was spotted in New York on Sunday on a date with her boyfriend, art dealer Cooke Maroney, the “action star was carrying a copy of Frank O’Hara’s 2001 poetry book, Lunch Poems.”  (The book was actually published in 1964, not 2001, but who’s counting?).

Here’s the picture that was snapped, presumably, by some annoying paparazzi:

Carrying Lunch Poems: Last week, the Red Sparrow action star and the NYU grad celebrated her 28th birthday with a romantic European vacation to Paris and Rome

Is it just me or does the book Lawrence is holding look much thicker than the usual copies of Lunch Poems — a slender volume which is, after all, part of City Lights’s famous “Pocket Poets Series”?  Strange… * (see below for an important update).

In any event, it’s great, though not surprising, to learn that Lawrence has such good taste in literature.

Also, I can only imagine how happy it would make Frank O’Hara — the ardent lover of the movies, the author of poems that pay tribute to Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean — to learn that one of the biggest movie stars of our age was spotted on the street carrying a book of his own poems.

It’s not to hard to imagine J. Law fitting right in with these lines from O’Hara’s “Steps“:

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers

*UPDATE: After I posted this piece, and wondered on Twitter why the book looked so much thicker, Carl Robert Anderson informed me that it is probably not a book at all, but rather a $1500 Olympia Le-Tan “Lunch Poems” purse or clutch (sold through Marc Jacobs), which you can find out more about, or purchase (?), here.

Lunchpoemsletan - View 1

Oh well … but somehow I imagine O’Hara would love this nonetheless…




Posted in Film, Frank O'Hara | 7 Comments

Roundup of Recent “New York School of Poetry” News and Links (8/23/18)

Here’s the latest roundup of recent links, new publications, and news related to the New York School of poets.  (For my most recent roundup, see here).

— The indie band Deerhunter released an album titled Double Dream of Spring, a title which evokes both John Ashbery’s masterful fourth book and the Giorgio di Chirico painting to which Ashbery’s title alludes.

       Image result for deerhunter double dream of spring                                        File:The Double Dream of Spring.jpg

— Another development on the New York School-and-indie-music front: No Rome, a young musician from Manila, told an interviewer about the importance of Frank O’Hara to his songwriting:

“But lyrically I guess it’s Frank O’Hara. He’s very interesting in the way that he’s very honest with his poems but at the same time it’s fake, so the honesty is there, but at the same time you question; ‘Yeah I get what he’s trying to say’. It’s there, but what does it really mean? That’s kind of how I wanted to tell a story with that EP.”

— The art historian Irving Sandler, author of The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties (1978), died in June at the age of 92.  As the New York Times obituary noted, Sandler “drew on his extensive relationships with living artists to compile authoritative histories of Abstract Expressionism and the artistic movements that followed.”  One of those relationships was with Frank O’Hara, who paid tribute to Sandler in his great poem “Adieu to Norman, Bonjour to Joan and Jean-Paul” with these lines:

and Irving Sandler continues to be the balayeur des artistes
and so do I (sometimes I think I’m “in love” with painting)

Sandler must have liked being called “the balayeur des artistes” – or “the sweeper-up after artists” – by O’Hara, as he alluded to the phrase in the title of a recent memoir: Swept Up by Art: An Art Critic in the Post-Avant-Garde Era (2015).

— For a recent New Yorker poetry podcast, the poet Kevin Young, poetry editor of the New Yorker, discusses Ashbery’s poem “Worsening Situation” with David Lehman, who also reads his own poem “Stages on Life’s Way.”

— The poet Bobbie Louise Hawkins passed away in May at the age of 87.  Hawkins was married to Robert Creeley, and also was close with many New York School poets, especially during the time she lived in Bolinas, California.  Her passing of Bobbie Louise Hawkins reminded me of this lovely, touching passage about her, and her then-husband Robert Creeley, in Joe Brainard’s “Bolinas Journal”:

— A novella by Ron Padgett entitled Motor Maids Across the Continent was recently published by the Song Cave:

More than fifty years in the making, Ron Padgett’s novella, Motor Maids across the Continent, is an altered version of a novel for adolescent girls originally published in 1911. A mix of Harold Lloyd, Tom Mix, and Max Ernst, Padgett’s tale is by turns comic, visionary, and strangely touching.”

John Yau praises Padgett’s strange and playful book in a review for Hyperallergic:

Reading Motor Maids across the Continent is like sitting in a car that has been commandeered by a driver who likes to exceed the speed limit. He does not want to scare you so much as enthrall you, and that is exactly what he does, time and again throughout the book…It is luxuriantly bizarre in beautifully precise sentences. He moves from the frivolous to feeling with such smoothness it takes your breath away.

— John Ashbery’s final poem, “Climate Correction,” was recently published in Harpers, with this note appended: “John Ashbery’s last poem, handwritten at his home in Hudson, New York, on August 25, 2017. Ashbery died on September 3.”  These are the last lines of the brief, poignant poem:

What was I telling you about?

Walks in the reeds. Be
contumely about it.
You need a chaser.

In other words, persist, but rather
a dense shadow fanned out.
Not exactly evil, but you get the point.

—  Another Ashbery sighting: a new book of literary criticism by John Steen uses a subtitle that quotes the last line of one of my favorite Ashbery poems, “A Blessing in Disguise”: Affect, Psychoanalysis, and American Poetry: This Feeling of Exaltation.

Lovers of My Orchards: Writers and Artists on Frank O’Hara, a new collection of essays devoted to O’Hara edited by Olivier Brossard was recently published in France.  It’s a big, rich collection of essays and reflections by a long list of contemporary poets and artists, including Bill Berkson, Lee Ann Brown, Thomas Devaney, Vincent Katz, Geoffrey O’Brien, Eileen Myles, and Anne Waldman.  I will probably write more about this book at a later date, but for now, you can find details here.

Alexandra. J. Gold has published an interesting piece which brings together Kim Kardashian and Frank O’Hara, specifically connecting an image of Kardashian with the notorious portrait Larry Rivers painted of Frank O’Hara, naked and wearing boots.

— Matthew Holman published a review of a recent Jane Freilicher exhibit (“How Jane Freilicher Found Beauty in the Everyday”) in Apollo.  The piece included a tantalizing bit of information for fans of Jane: “Karin Roffman, who last year published a monograph on Ashbery’s early years, is currently working on a major biography on Freilicher.”

— Speaking of Karin Roffman’s biography of Ashbery’s early years, The Songs We Know Best (which I reviewed last year for the New York Times Book Review): Christopher Spaide has reviewed the book for Chicago Review. Spaide writes that Roffman’s “book may be the most instructive guide yet on reading Ashbery autobiographically, a rarely-chosen approach to this poet who invites and deflects all approaches … Roffman has written something invaluable for today’ s many mournful readers, for all of us struggling to imagine American poetry without Ashbery’ s meandering step leading the way.”

— Nick Sturm has posted a treasure trove of a digital project — an archive of fully searchable facsimile PDF editions of the magazines co-edited by Alice Notley and Douglas Oliver, Scarlet and Gare du Nord (10 issues total).  The issues are now available for download hereSturm has also published a valuable essay on the journals, their importance to Notley’s work, and their significance and aesthetic vision.

Rona Cran reviews Daniel Kane’s book on New York poetry and punk, Do You Have a Band?, for the journal ASAP/J.  According to Cran:

As far as an academic book can be, Kane’s is punky and irreverent. His writing is of a piece with his subject matter, and is often witty or demotic, his arguments ranging from the casually observed to the borderline polemical. This, combined with his extensive and meticulous research, which includes fascinating archival material and first-hand interviews with many of the figures under discussion, renders Do You Have A Band? both intellectually rigorous and profoundly enjoyable. It is also an important interdisciplinary addition to the growing body of exciting work on the New York School.

A review of Kane’s book by Drew Strombeck also recently appeared in ALH Online (American Literary History’s online review platform).  Strombeck writes that “Do You Have a Band? markedly complicates the often-hallowed story of punk, while adding texture and nuance to the arc of post-New American poetry, providing another essential piece of literary history.”

— Alina Cohen writes a profile of the painter Joan Mitchell for Artsy:

Mitchell is currently in the spotlight as both a market darling and a scholarly subject… A few years from now, a new generation of fans will have the opportunity to enjoy a comprehensive presentation of Mitchell’s work. In 2020, the Baltimore Museum of Art is mounting a major retrospective of the artist, which will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and New York’s Guggenheim Museum. The show promises to increase scholarship and broaden Mitchell’s audience.

Joan Mitchell in her Vétheuil studio, 1983. © Joan Mitchell Foundation. Photo by Robert Freson, Joan Mitchell Foundation Archives. Courtesy of David Zwirner New York/London/Hong Kong.

Shell Game, the long-awaited second volume of poems by Jordan Davis, was recently published by Edge Books: “Scratch an American, win a lifetime / all expenses charged back to you / trip to the front.  Scratch an American, / find your way through the smoke.”  From the publisher:

The first collection in fifteen years from a poet whose first book Stephanie Burt called ‘very personal, very appealing,’ Shell Game by Jordan Davis presents a series of puzzles of feeling and mazes of history where the person speaking disappears into the world, and vice versa, without warning.

Starting against the backdrop of New York in 2001 and working back to the words that came into the English language during World War II, Jordan Davis’s second book teleports to Turkey in the middle of the century in a series of poems reimagining the work of Orhan Veli Kanik as a New York School poet, then returns to reflect on the precarious present in which everything is at incredible risk, and trying to laugh about it.

— Last year, I wrote about the death of Vincent Warren, the ballet dancer and dance historian, who was the love of Frank O’Hara’s life.  There is a new documentary about Warren’s life and career, “A Man of Dance,” which was screened in July at Lincoln Center in New York.  You can see a brief trailer for the film here.

A MAN OF DANCE (Un Homme de Danse) by VINCENT WARREN premieres in Dance on Camera Festival

— The Best American Poetry blog posted “Sonnet After Koch” by Mitch Sisskind.  Here is how it begins:

If I could push a button and write
A new Kenneth Koch poem
I would push a button and write
That I could push a button so
We are hitchhiking again near
Vallauris and the sky is cloudy
But who cares since we’re young
And plain silly…

— Berfrois published two poems by Eileen Tabios that she calls “The Ashbery Riff-Offs,” “where each poem begins with 1 or 1-2 lines from ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ by John Ashbery.”

— Bernadette Mayer has a new, official website, which you can find here.

Fairfield Porter’s home at 49 South Main St. in Southampton, NY – a hallowed site for New York School poetry and painting – has been bought by New York art dealer Andrea Glimcher for $4.8 million:

Porter’s subjects were primarily landscapes, domestic interiors, and portraits of family, friends, and fellow artists, many of them affiliated with the New York School of writers, including John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler. Many of his paintings were set in or around the family summer house on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, and the family home on South Main Street in. Porter died at 68 in 1975, and his wife, the poet Anne Elizabeth Porter, died at 99 in 2011.

— In other Hamptons news, there was an interesting article in the New York Times in July about a dispute regarding the garden that once belonged to the painter and New York School pal Robert Dash – a garden which happens to be the site of some great James Schuyler poems, including “Korean Mums” and “Dec. 28, 1974.  The story mentions the connections between Dash, the garden, and poets including John Ashbery, John Koethe, Barbara Guest, and Douglas Crase (though it keeps misspelling his name). And it quotes Crase on Schuyler:

“Something about Madoo seemed to inspire odes,” Mr. Crace [sic] wrote in the script for a talk he gave at the Beinecke Library at Yale. “Once in the winter house, we actually watched Jimmy Schuyler, seated all afternoon in his chair, as he wrote one of his best-known poems,”“Dec. 28, 1974.”

— The British poet Ian Seed recently published a new book of prose poems with Shearsman Books titled New York Hotel that clearly displays the influence of poets of the New York School, as well as those who influenced them, like Pierre Reverdy (whose book The Thief of Talant Seed translated in 2010).  Writing about Seed’s earlier book Shifting Registers, John Ashbery said “The mystery and sadness of empty rooms, chance encounters in the street, trains traveling through a landscape of snow become magical in Ian Seed’s poems.”

Posted in Alice Notley, Anne Waldman, Bernadette Mayer, Bill Berkson, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Criticism, David Lehman, Douglas Oliver, Eileen Myles, Fairfield Porter, Frank O'Hara, Geoffrey O'Brien, Irving Sandler, Jane Freilicher, Joan Mitchell, Joe Brainard, John Ashbery, John Yau, Kenneth Koch, Kevin Young, Larry Rivers, Music, NY School Influence, Robert Creeley, Robert Dash, Ron Padgett, Roundup, Thomas Devaney, Vincent Katz, Vincent Warren, Visual Art | 1 Comment

Tom Clark (1941-2018), the New York School, and the Paris Review


Tom Clark, in a still from a home movie by Larry Fagin, 1968

Very sad news in the poetry world: the poet Tom Clark died this week at the age of 77 after being struck by a car while walking across a street in Berkeley, California.  A prolific and controversial writer, Clark was the author of over 25 volumes of poetry and biographies of Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley.  He was a pivotal figure in the New York School’s second generation, both as a poet in his own right and for the important role he played as poetry editor of the Paris Review, a post he held from 1963 (when he began at the ripe old age of 22!) to 1973.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, while living first in New York, and later Bolinas, California, Clark established close friendships with second-generation New York School poets like Ron Padgett, Ted Berrigan, and Bill Berkson. According to Terence Diggory, while in New York, Clark’s “brief but intense involvement in the local poetry scene was capped in March 1968 by his marriage at St. Mark’s Church to Angelica Heinegg, the muse who inspired the title of Angel Hair magazine. Padgett served as best man; Berrigan gave the bride away; [Larry] Fagin, Dick Gallup, and David Shapiro, and painter Mike Goldberg provided music; Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh hosted the reception at their apartment.”

In the mid-1960s, Clark opened the pages of the august Paris Review to a wide range of poets associated with the avant-garde, and with the New York School in particular, including John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Berkson, Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Jim Carroll, Joe Ceravolo, Clark Coolidge, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, John Koethe, David Lehman, Frank Lima, Gerard Malanga, Harry Mathews, Alice Notley, Frank O’Hara, Padgett, Peter Schjeldahl, James Schuyler, Tony Towle, Warsh, and Waldman, along with other “New American” poets and fellow travelers, like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Larry Eigner, and Philp Whalen.  When Lou Reed turned to poetry after the Velvet Underground broke up, his poems found a home in Clark’s Paris Review.

In essence, Clark dramatically transformed the rather staid Paris Review, turning it into one of the more important venues for New York School-affiliated poetry: thanks in part to Clark, the Paris Review became the place where many landmark New York School poems first appeared, including John Ashbery’s “Soonest Mended” and “The System,” Schuyler’s “Crystal Lithium” and “A Few Days,” Frank O’Hara’s “Memorial Day 1950” and “A True Account of Talking to the Sun on Fire Island,” and many others.

In later years, Clark certainly courted controversy in various ways, but there is no question that with his sudden, tragic death, he leaves behind a complicated but important legacy for the poetry of the New York School.  For more on Clark, see here and here, for a 2003 interview, and this tribute by Terence Winch.


Posted in Alice Notley, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Anne Waldman, Barbara Guest, Bill Berkson, Charles Olson, Clark Coolidge, David Lehman, David Shapiro, Denise Levertov, Frank Lima, Frank O'Hara, Gerard Malanga, Harry Mathews, In Memoriam, Jack Kerouac, James Schuyler, Jim Carroll, Joe Brainard, Joe Ceravolo, John Ashbery, John Koethe, Kenneth Koch, Kenward Elmslie, Larry Eigner, Larry Fagin, Lewis Warsh, Lou Reed, Peter Schjeldahl, Philip Whalen, Poetry Project at St. Marks, Robert Creeley, Ron Padgett, Ted Berrigan, Tom Clark, Tony Towle, Uncategorized, Velvet Underground | 1 Comment

One of Kate Spade’s Muses was Frank O’Hara



Frank O'Hara bag             

Here’s an interesting footnote to the very sad news about the pioneering fashion designer Kate Spade, who died of an apparent suicide several days ago.  In a piece in the Atlantic, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell emphasizes Spade’s retro sensibility, pointing out that Frank O’Hara, of all people, was one of her guiding lights:

Spade was photographed around town wearing twinsets, cocktail rings, and leopard coats long before Wes Anderson came to prominence and Mad Men debuted on TV. Instead of contemporary celebrities and socialites, she once cited the playwright Arthur Miller and the poet Frank O’Hara as her muses.

I confess that I know very little about fashion design, and even less about Kate Spade, but this connection does further solidify my sense that nearly all roads somehow lead back to the New York School of poets.  I imagine it would’ve pleased O’Hara to know that he had helped inspire such a innovative and creative designer in the world of fashion.

He didn’t write about high fashion all that often, but he did write this in “Christmas Card to Grace Hartigan”:

For red there is our blood
which, like your smile, must be
protected from spilling into
generality by secret meanings,
the lipstick of life hidden
in a handbag against violations.



Posted in Frank O'Hara, Grace Hartigan, In Memoriam, Mad Men, NY School Influence | 2 Comments