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Saturday, June 20, 2020

New York School

I began as a fan of Frank O'Hara. I read through his collected poetry many times, going to school with him.  I read everyone that he had read, like Flann O'Brien, inventing that method of reading backwards from a favorite writer. (I didn't invent it in an absolute sense, but I came up with the idea on my own.) Of course, I was also reading Ashbery, and doing a similar thing with him. 

But Kenneth Koch was the poet that I felt I could actually imitate myself. When I tried to write in a New York school, it came off too much like Creeley, but that is another story.  

Then as a young professor, I went to Schuyler, who didn't come through clearly in anthologies before that time. I went to school with Schuyler after already being immersed in the other 3. Then I extended it to Barbara Guest, the fourth of the big four. I spent a lot of time there, too. 

Of course, there is Ted Berrigan. But I like Alice Notley better. Their two sons are good poets. Eileen Myles, Joseph Ceravolo, are other poets I think are among the best. And Bernadette Mayer. Then came my friendship with David Shapiro, as brilliant as the rest of them but with an added element, for me. Each of these experiences meant "going to school" with a poet for a long time.  I almost forgot Ron Padgett, who gave me permission to not try to write the "good poem" all the time. Baraka, who started out with the New York group, too. 

So many different styles and personalities, in what we call the New York School.  There is no common element, except that it's good poetry and not boring. But what makes it seem good to me is its exuberant avant-garde spirit, that is not geared to scoring avant-garde points in a facile way. 

Then you could quadruple that with the other poet that aren't "New York." 

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