Frank O’Hara: Second Avenue (1960), Hymns of St. Bridget (1960), Art Chronicles 1954-1966


“Dated 1953. Published 1960. Picked up by moi in 1964 and purchased, not for ninety-five cents as priced on back (Totem Press), but for five francs twenty-five centimes, in Paris at Shakespeare and Company, which was almost the same as one dollar considering it had to fly the Atlantic, which it probably did on sheer exuberant sexual and lexical energy and gay will to power, which was clearly not masculinist will to power but impressive and powerful in a different ‘we are sissies’ way, thereupon to be confronted by an immediate me who immediately couldn’t understand one word, but got the energy and the comedy and the insouciance and the verve and the nerve — and stored it up. These emerged in a much transfigured form in the ode and the serial, and desire, and the long poem, and scale. … The door opened. It really was something outrageous and helpful. Not to speak of utterly unlike the flaccid stuff, with no particular force or dimension, but dutifully bowling straight down the middle, those overworked samplers from the Hall, Pack, Simpson anthology, treat of my recent college days. This was not overworked — it was overwrought!  And thus a talismanic power bundle wrapping a suspect magic. … This copy of Second Avenue is not the black and white cover with tipped in label blah blah — $145 at AbeBooks in 2010 — but the first printing, second state, in semigloss wrap, offset printed in red ($45), cover art by Larry Rivers, foxed foxily and light pencil markings. Carried here, carried there. Pink and speedy. A liberation and very uncomfortable. Nothing to solidify, something to do, to have happen, to engage with, to be confused by. It was — like the Sixties were about to be — all happening all at once.  … The poem was a zippy discourse circus, with the poet as a juggler, keeping five bowling pins, four striped hoops, and two balls in the air at the same time. Being inside this eleven-part poem was like living in an alternative mind, inventing elaborated, baroque-ish narrative skits in which to enfold friends with a show-offy zeal that took place as language urgency. Such dramatic, campy love for John, and Joe, and Grace, and Kenneth was expressed as sheer grifting snarkiness, narcissism and pleasure. It was a real nice party going on next door. It wasn’t quite my house then, nor was it to be, but the door was open and the music came out.  …”
Jacket2: On Frank O’Hara, ‘Second Avenue’ – Rachel Blau DuPlessis, On Bill Berkson and Frank O’Hara, ‘Hymns of St. Bridget’
Brooklyn Rail – Into a Future of His Choice: Catching Up with Frank O’Hara, How to Proceed in the Arts (after O’Hara and Rivers, with love)
amazon: Second Avenue, Hymns of St. Bridget, Art Chronicles: 1954-1966

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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