Monday, January 14, 2008

John Ashbery on Frank O'Hara's ability to do anything!

Last Spring a friend played me Tom Waits' "Rain Dogs" and I couldn't believe I'd spent 29 years without it. It's as close to a perfect record as I have ever heard, from the wider concept, to the instrumentation that is so foreign you'd think you had never heard a song before in whole life. I listened to all or part of it every day for a solid 3 months.
It was, at the time an obsession and now I've found a new one, Frank O'Hara. I got about half way through his collected before I stopped and read John Asbery's introduction. In short, it was like looking at a put-together puzzle and wondering why you ever thought it was so hard. I won't get into too much explication, but instead leave a few choice quotes to you:

On the avant-garde, "The actual mechanics of the method escaped me then as it does now; what mattered was that chance elements could combine to produce so beautiful and cogent a work. It was a further, perhaps for us ultimate proof not so much of 'Anything goes' but 'Anything can come out.'"

Without O'Hara, "there probably wouldn't be a young generation of poets committed to poetry as something living rather than an academic parlor game."

O'Hara's surrealist vernacular created a "remarkable new poetry--both modest and monumental, with something basically usable about it--not only for poets in search of a voice of their own but for the reader who turns to poetry as a last resort in trying to juggle the contradictory components of modern life into something like a livable space."

And of course, as poem...

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