English 150

Senior Seminar: The New York School

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2008 O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
O'Brien, Geoffrey
TTh 2-3:30 263 Dwinelle


"Met these four boys Frank O?Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Jimmy Schuyler?at the Cedar Bar in ?52 or ?53. Met them through Bill (de Kooning) who was a friend of theirs and they admired Kline and all those people. Painters who went to the Cedar had more or less coined the phrase ?New York School? in opposition to the School of Paris (which also originated as a joke in opposition to the School of Florence and the School of Venice)?..So the poets adopted the expression ?New York School? out of homage to the people who had de-provincialized American painting. ?Edwin Denby

It?s easy to name the first generation of New York School poets, as Denby does incompletely above (Barbara Guest makes the fifth), but much harder to decide what, if anything, that rubric yields beyond friendships, a tendency to have gone to Harvard, to write for ARTNews, and, of course, to live in New York City. It?s this last that makes it into the name and may make its way furthest into the poetry: ?New York?that kaleidoscopic lumber-room where laws of space and time are altered?where one can live a few yards away from a friend whom one never sees and whom one would travel miles to visit in the country? Ashbery). Despite Ashbery?s pyrrhic definition of the group via ?its avoidance of anything like a program,? this course will use the convenient critical grouping as an excuse to think about the poetry of a specific place and time (1956-1975 in NYC) and what it might tell us about how poetry models, and is modeled by, the U.S. megacity?a de-provincialized space of shock, anonymity, chance, poverty, commodities, and friendship that stays open ?terribly late.?"

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