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By Andrew Epstein

Even though it has lengthy been typical to visualize the archetypal American poet making a song a solitary "Song of Myself," a lot of the main enduring American poetry has truly been preoccupied with the drama of friendship. during this lucid and soaking up learn, Andrew Epstein argues that an obsession with either the pleasures and difficulties of friendship erupts within the "New American Poetry" that emerges after the second one global struggle. through concentrating on probably the most major postmodernist American poets--the "New York institution" poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and their shut modern Amiri Baraka--Beautiful Enemies finds a primary paradox on the center of postwar American poetry and tradition: the avant-garde's dedication to individualism and nonconformity runs without delay counter to its personal valorization of group and collaboration. in truth, Epstein demonstrates that the conflict among friendship and nonconformity complicates the mythical alliances solid by means of postwar poets, turns into a important subject matter within the poetry they created, and leaves modern writers with a sophisticated legacy to barter. instead of easily celebrating friendship and poetic group as nurturing and encouraging, those poets characterize friendship as one of those exhilarating, maddening contradiction, a website of appeal and repulsion, affinity and rivalry.

tough either the reductive reviews of yankee individualism and the idealized, seriously biographical celebrations of literary camaraderie one unearths in a lot serious dialogue, this publication presents a brand new interpretation of the ordinary dynamics of yankee avant-garde poetic groups and the position of the person inside them. by means of situating his vast and revealing readings of those hugely influential poets opposed to the backdrop of chilly battle cultural politics and in the context of yankee pragmatist inspiration, Epstein uncovers the collision among radical self-reliance and the siren name of the interpersonal on the middle of postwar American poetry

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Additional resources for Beautiful enemies : friendship and postwar American poetry

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And, as we will see, O’Hara’s stance is common and emblematic: whether fairly or not, friendship and fixity are consistently equated in the metaphorical vocabulary of many influential American poets and thinkers. Throughout Beautiful Enemies, I assert that this particular version of the urAmerican conflict between individual and community is deeply ingrained in American culture, literature, and philosophy—both woven into the fabric of its most distinctive philosophical and poetic texts and into the cultural discourses of the post-1945 period.

Self-consciously exclusive, marginal, and eccentric, they saw themselves as a “fraternity of despair” in “a defiled country” and envisioned poetry to be an emanation of a particular, insular constellation of individuals (40). A few years later, now ensconced in the different social nexus of Black Mountain poetry, Robert Duncan would describe his book Letters: Poems 1953–1956 as the outgrowth of a very specific, exalted community of friends, and even cast the book itself as a crystallization of fellowship: “A naming of my peers, and an exclamation of joy: Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, James Broughton, Mike McClure, Helen Adam—it is the presence of companions, named and unnamed, that inspires Letters.

Instead of idealizing the camaraderie and collaborative ethos of the avant-garde or ignoring poetic community altogether, I suggest that it is necessary, when considering postwar American poetry, to keep constantly in play both the individual and his or her complex negotiations with a larger cultural field of friends, enemies, and competitors, groups and movements. As we will see, poets like O’Hara, Ashbery, and Baraka constantly do precisely the same thing in their writings. This chapter will first examine the entrenched concept that the avant-garde is a communal enterprise and will draw attention to the enduring individualism that threatens to explode that notion.

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