Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie

Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie

by Lytle Shaw


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Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie by Lytle Shaw

In this stimulating and innovative synthesis of New York's artistic and literary worlds, Lytle Shaw uses the social and philosophical problems involved in “reading” a coterie to propose a new language for understanding the poet, art critic, and Museum of Modern Art curator Frank O'Hara (1926-1966). O'Hara's poems are famously filled with proper names—-from those of his immediate friends and colleagues in the New York writing and art worlds (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Grace Hartigan, Willem de Kooning, and many musicians, dancers, and filmmakers) to a broad range of popular cultural and literary heroes (Apollinaire to Jackie O). But rather than understand O'Hara's most commonly referenced names as a fixed and insular audience, Shaw argues that he uses the ambiguities of reference associated with the names to invent a fluid and shifting kinship structure—-one that opened up radical possibilities for a gay writer operating outside the structure of the family. As Shaw demonstrates, this commitment to an experimental model of association also guides O'Hara's art writing. Like his poetry, O'Hara's art writing too has been condemned as insular, coterie writing. In fact, though, he was alone among 1950s critics in his willingness to consider abstract expressionism not only within the dominant languages of existentialism and formalism but also within the cold war political and popular cultural frameworks that anticipate many of the concerns of contemporary art historians. Situating O'Hara within a range of debates about art's possible relations to its audience, Shaw demonstrates that his interest in coterie is less a symptomatic offshoot of his biography than a radical literary and artistic invention.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780877459842
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 06/01/2006
Series: Contemporary North American Poetry Series
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Lytle Shaw's books of poetry include Cable Factory 20, The Lobe, and several collaborations with artists. His essays and reviews have appeared in Cabinet, Artforum, and Parkett and in catalogs for the DIA Center for the Arts, the Drawing Center, and the Sculpture Center. He lives in New York City, where he is assistant professor of English at New York University.

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