Tuesday, January 21, 2014

you have to use words...

on Frank O'Hara's long poem Second Avenue:

"Second Avenue is a poem of brilliant excess and breakneck inventiveness, beginning: "Quips and players, seeming to vend astringency off-hours, / celebrate diced excesses and sardonics, mixing pleasures, / as if proximity were staring at the margin of the plea. . . ." This is language in love with itself. The poem is dedicated to Mayakovsky, one of O'Hara's great heroes (though an early draft is inscribed to de Kooning), and certainly the images throughout are as wide-ranging and as startling as Mayakovsky's, but they arrive more rapidly and with less continuity, jostling for attention, a bewildering mixture. Moreover, they do not have Mayakovsky's large, carrying, unifying voice. O'Hara himself explained: "where Mayakovsky and de Kooning come in, is that they both have done works as big as cities where the life in the work is autonomous (not about actual city life) and yet similar." Here the result is a highly mosaic-like, patterned surface. "The verbal elements," by the poet's own insistence, "are extended consciously to keep the surface of the poem high and dry, not wet, reflective and self-conscious." But it is perhaps the most difficult of all accomplishments in art, the texture of surface appearance. "Perhaps," O'Hara continues, "the obscurity comes in here, in the relationship between the surface and the meaning, but I like it that way since the one is the other (you have to use words) and I hope the poem to be the subject, not just about it." At this point O'Hara began adapting the processes of surrealism to the conception of poetic form founded on the idea that the poem is an enactment of the actuality of perception and the realization of thinking. The achievement of a form, then, which was also the imperative of Abstract Expressionism, brought O'Hara into the creative ambience of the painters.""

more: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/frank-ohara

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